Friday, December 16, 2016

Social Media: The Good, Bad, & Ugly

We all use social media for different reasons. Keep up with old friends. Share photos of that trip you just took. Group watch your favorite TV show. Sell a product. Talk about a film, book, album you are crowd-funding for ... so many reasons.

The other side of that is when it gets ugly. I will be the first to admit, I often fall into this category on twitter. Hate-watching a show and making snarky remarks. Being political. Being political. Being political. The past year has been rough and many days I swear I'm not going to make a political post, but then I check a certain person's tweet and I can't stay quiet.

I'm just regular Joe. I'm not running for office. I'm not a celebrity. Yet we often see those people held at very different standards when they get involved in tweet conversations. We've seen Broadway performers attacked for their views on the Hamilton/Mike Pence event. We've seen regular people lose jobs because of a tweet they have done/photo shared and social media grabs the pitchforks and goes after them.

I stand behind my tweets. Rarely will I remove a tweet (unless I did something in so much anger and I need to delete it). I've had many heated discussions with people of opposing views and yes, have had to block many, MANY people when they are simply trolling me and not truly debating. Fine. Believe what you believe.

However, even small indie artist have to be careful because you never know what someone may do. Oh sure, I've had bad reviews written about me that I know came from a place that had nothing to do with my product. But recently, I was accused of something that was simply not true. I had made a humorous/snarky tweet, someone replied that I was anti-military (when my tweet had nothing to do with our military) and next thing you know - this person is tweeting a photo of my tweet, their reply, and the cover of my book telling people to make it go viral as I'm some sort of anti-American. Attack me for what I say, totally fine: make up crap...not right.

It simply goes to show the underbelly of social media that has nothing to do with facts or what is right or wrong. People can say whatever they want (hence the fake news stories) and people will believe. Yes, there were people that retweeted this person without ever questioning anything about it. Without noticing I had tweeted that VERY day a photo of a military family's Christmas card and sending my thoughts to them. That I come from a military family where my dad, brother, sister-in-law and numerous uncles and cousins have all served. None of that matters on social media. In the long run, it doesn't matter to me either as I know the truth. But for a moment, I thought "wow - this is what it's like to be a celebrity and be attacked!" (Who knows, perhaps she gave me publicity to a parent that will actually WANT to buy my children's books when they realize this person completely jumped to a strange conclusion from my tweet and I hit a new parent market!)

So to my fellow indie artist friends - stay true to yourself. Use social media as you see fit. If you stand up for a certain subject, don't stay quiet. But be prepared that even we are not immune to the ugly side of social media.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Emotional & Beautiful Night at The Music Box

For the second time in six months, I was found at the incredible musical Dear Evan Hansen which moved from Off-Broadway to Broadway and opened this past Sunday at the Music Box Theater to rave reviews. Believe me, it deserves every rave that it gets. An original story. A kick-butt score. An amazing ensemble of performers. It has it all.

I first talked about the show when I saw it before, so I don't want to repeat myself too much. I do however need to praise the courage it takes for producers to bring a small scale show to Broadway. A show geared towards a younger crowd (and already embraced by them) that discusses themes they know: social media, feeling alone, trying to find your place in the world. The musical by Steven Leveson and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul goes beyond the old "after school specials" I would watch about these subjects. They take us inside that world with projections designed by Peter Nigrini that remind us how social media is a constant around us at all times; often making people feel even more alone while connecting others. 

The story has parts in it that one shouldn't give away in a review (much like Next To Normal also directed by Michael Grief who tackles family issues in this musical as well), so I don't want to share the synopsis. I tell people the show addresses the question that if you disappeared, would anyone care at all.

At the center of it all is a nerdy, anxious senior whose therapist has suggested he write letters to himself to have a good day. (Hence the title) I praised Ben Platt the last time I saw it and I have to say he's even better now. This young man is a gift to Broadway. His voice absolutely beautiful rather singing in falsetto or full-out. He LIVES Evan Hansen and every emotion that he goes through. Every tic, movement, delivery endears him to the audience and you want to take him in your arms and hold him. This time, I found myself looking at Ben Platt the actor (and not just Evan) wondering what his career will be as he ages and hoping he will never fully say goodbye to Broadway. I hope he sticks around a long time even though Hollywood will always want him as well.  He's just that good, but he deserves to be seen live...again and again.

Many of the cast have worked together at other incarnations of the show at Arena Stages in DC or Second Stage in NYC. (Most have been with the show since the beginning.) It is obvious they know each other so well in how they work off of each other. Rachel Bay Jones killed me even more as his mom that is struggling raising her kid alone and just trying to do the best that she can. Laura Dreyfuss as the object of his affection has a beautiful voice and incredible presence. Mike Faist stood out more to me this time for both his brooding AND humor (try and figure that one out). Jennifer Laura Thompson (who has played her share of teen roles in the past) as their mom knows how to display wealthy mom without making her a caricature. Will Roland and Kristolyn Lloyd gave me more dimension this time than the original comic relief I had thought they supplied off-Broadway. 
I am really glad to see Michael Park back with the show (original dad at Arena Stages, but was in another Broadway show when this was off-Broadway). He is the dad everyone would want to have. His moment with Evan and the ball glove - incredible without going over the top. Subtlety is a great attribute for any performer to have and he uses it to his advantage (after an amazing career both on stage and TV).

I could go on and on about this show because I love it so much. It speaks to the geek buried deep inside of me that has spent a lifetime trying to fit in. In some way, we all do that no matter what our age is. Worried if we're making a difference, if we're making the right decisions - and here we see that from the kids to the adults...all wondering the same thing. Go see this show before people give away too much of the subject matter. Bring tissues. Cry if you want. Don't worry, you will be found. You are not alone.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

O Captain! My Captain!

There are teachers in this world that teach and then there are those that you know are driven by a love and desire to shape minds, impart wisdom, and truly care.

When I saw the 1989 film "Dead Poets Society" I recognized professor John Keating because I was lucky enough to have several like him when I was in school. Teachers that thought outside the box in how they taught. That took extra time because they loved their students so much. I was drawn into Robin Williams' performance in that film along with all of the young men (many who went on to so many more films in their lives).  

Skip ahead to 2016 and Classic Stage Company, an off-Broadway theater in New York City, is producing a stage version of the show written for the stage by the film's screenwriter Tom Schulman and directed by the always smart John Doyle. I don't like to write about shows that are still in previews, but I'm breaking my rule because if you're in the NYC area - you need to be doing the lottery daily to see this show.

Jason Sudeikis & Cast
I didn't think it would be able to translate to the stage, but for me it was a perfect translation. I also spoke to patrons afterwards who had never seen the film and everything made perfect sense to them. And why shouldn't it under the careful watch of Mr. Doyle. A simple set. Immersive theater where the audience is part of the school. Clever lighting and sound. All thanks to Scott Pask, Japhy Weideman and Matt Stine. 

However I'm sure deciding to do this for the stage was a tough decision as people's minds would think of Robin Williams' beautiful performance in the film. I have to say - boy, did they find their captain with Jason Sudeikis. I didn't think of Mr. Williams ONCE while watching. Sudeikis has made the role his. He is witty, he knows how to play the drama, he is genuine (and so comfortable on stage in his NY stage debut), and you can tell he loves these boys. He is the entire package.

Robin Williams in Film
The rest of the cast is just as wonderful. I love David Garrison in everything that I see. I'd never seen the rest of the cast, but I'm sure I will in the future. Zane Pais, Thomas Mann, Cody Kostro, Bubba Weiler, William Hichman, Yaron Lotan, Stephen Barker Turner and Francesca Carpanini are all incredible actors - giving their all and taking us to the time of 1959 that doesn't feel all that different from the 80s when I was in school.

Thank you to Classic Stage Company for producing this and sending me out with a lump in my throat. And thank you to those teachers I had that taught me to go against the grain and to just be ME! 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Theater, Books, and Squirrels!

It's been five years this week since the launch of my first novel in downtown Manhattan. Here I am again with the launch of my third children's book and the excitement is still just as grand. I love the feelings I get as I lead up to the big day a book comes out. The build-up to that moment when it's out there for the world to see. I've had many opening nights on stage and several book launches. The difference is the weird feeling from when a book is released, you're not totally sure when people are buying it or reading it. That's why I'm doubled thrilled to be launching Irving the Theater Nut! at the Drama Book Shop in NYC on the same day of the release. What a great way to share a book all about theater.

I love theater. It's been a part of my being since I was a child. I think since the moment I was on stage in kindergarten for the Christmas play, I was bitten by the performing bug. I can recall all the rehearsals as a child, the incredible friendships made during the process, and the letdowns when a show closed. For children that love theater like I always have, they can either embrace the term of theater-geek/nerd/nut or let it bother them. Hopefully this new children's book with amazing illustrations by the very talented Morgan Swofford will show kids that it's okay to be different. If you'd rather be at play practice than football practice - it's all good! Let your freak flag fly (to steal a phrase from Shrek!).

I'm lucky in my job as an arts center manager I've been able to see so many children experience that same joy I always have when I see the different groups rehearsing in the theater. There's no other thrill like it and one that theater people can bond on. It was at my current job two years ago when a squirrel got into the theater that I decided to write a story about a squirrel that wants to be a performer. He watches the children rehearsing and wishes he could do the same. There are many messages in the story about teamwork, following your dream and yes..even diversity as Gwen Ricks-Spencer pointed out in her Huffington Post article. These themes are not accompanied with a flashing neon sign, but definitely ones that parents and teachers can discuss when reading the book.

So here I am like an actor waiting in the wings until I walk out on the stage and the lights hit me. This time, it will be at a great bookstore where numerous theater people have shared their stories many times. I'm excited about Monday. I'm thrilled for those across the country to grab the book at an indie bookstore (ask for it!) or from their favorite online site (IndieBound Amazon The time has come for little Irving to shine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Simply Deplorable

I would definitely call this the worst election season that I can recall. Of course things have gotten bad in the past and friendships have been tested based on party lines, but it's much worse this time. Opposite sides simply yell back and forth at each other never hearing anything. The media has completely sold their souls to the rating devil and no one seems to truly care what the consequences will be for the country. I take that back - the patriots do. Of course the word ‘patriot’ seems to have been taken over by one part of the country and they believe only they can own it (I think it was bestowed on them by Bill O'Reilly). You're not allowed to think differently than God-fearing, Flag-waving, gun-toting people and still consider yourself one that loves the country. But I do. I love this land AND the people in it - the melting pot that is America.
What upsets me the most is gone is the United part of the United States. The road we are currently going down (if polls are correct) will only make us more and more divided. As I type this, people will yell that Obama has divided us for 8 years – that he is to blame for the racial divide in our country - I strongly disagree with that statement. There is a man running now that has completely made it okay to believe you are a 'patriot' if you hate your neighbors. If you make fun of people that are different from you. That diversity is a bad thing. That you care about the nation by using the word 'nationalist' (which is someone who wants to be political independent from the country). That you can punch a 69 year old woman in the face at a rally simply because you disagree with her.
Guess what: all of that IS Deplorable. The fact that many people are adopting that word and using it as their twitter handle simple shows how strong of a hold this twisted man has on many. They believe a man that lives in a golden penthouse can relate to them living on a farm. That's their guy. Are people truly that removed from reality that they think he is one of them? Oh sorry...I used the world reality: he is after all a reality TV star. And no matter what happens in this election, I look for him to build his loyal followers to create an entire network on TV where anything goes.
I can say I’m just as guilty as I’ll tweet an inflammatory tweet which is met by disdain and jabs my way. I just get so upset that people don’t want to have the capacity to accept the diversity of our country; to make us united again. I'm so exhausted by this election. I'm tired of fighting with people on social media. I'm scared to death over what will happen if this 'outsider' gets into Washington and then America wakes up to what he truly is: a business man that will do whatever it takes to get a deal - even getting in bed with the enemy. (Just look at any of his properties to see where his products are made: clue, NOT in America.) But this is the savior to many people. And others simply hate Hillary so much and long for a change that they are getting behind him. But yes - deplorable is a great word as so much of what he stands for and what those that surround him, follow him, and believe in is truly the slime on the bottom of the boots of those that built this amazing country.
He gets in, it all comes tumbling down.

Monday, September 12, 2016

You Gotta Believe

Have you ever been asked by a friend to attend something at the last minute and then be completely moved by what you witness? That's what happened to me Monday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theater when my friend Cathy asked me to go to the You Gotta Believe "Voices for the Voiceless" Stars for Foster Kids concert. That may seem like a mouthful, but it was actually 2 and half hours of utter joy and beauty.

You Gotta Believe is one of a few organizations in the U.S that has a mission to find families for young adults, teens, and pre-teens in the foster care system. Too often, children 'age out' of the foster care system, but this incredible group believes ALL children are adoptable and make it their mission to find homes for older 'kids' - some who are even college aged.

Alec Mapa & Stephanie Mills
And those are the stories we heard tonight.

It was a star-studded event with Chita Rivera opening the evening as only she can, and yes there were Broadway, TV, film, sports personalities that flooded the stage and wowed the crowd with talent...I mean come on, Gloria Gaynor!  (Plus I simply want to follow Alec Mapa around and just laugh at everything he says.)

But it was the real stories that got to me. That was the reason for the night. The kids that came out and shared how they were adopted later in life after a rough road to their early lives. Adults who told how a certain child took their hearts and they knew they were meant to be a family. Joseph Tole who went through the foster system himself and then created his own family by adopting older children.  Rosie Perez sharing her absolutely moving story of her childhood living in a group home and singing the song "Home" from the Wiz to get herself through dark times. And then Stephanie Mills comes out and sings the song and there isn't a dry eye in the house.  

I've never been a parent, but I grew up in a family that was a foster family. I often wondered what happened to those kids in the 80s when they left our house. What became of them. I know what became of one of them because we adopted him and he is my little brother that I'm so proud of having served our country in two tours of duty overseas. For me, he was meant to be our family after coming into our lives at 2 years old (and stealing all of our hearts). But for those that are older, that think they will never know what it means to have that unconditional love and connection - I could cry again now typing this as I think back to those stories tonight.
Rosie Perez

Check out this group or a group like it in your area. Mentor a child. Be a big brother or sister to someone younger than you. I never thought I wanted to be a dad, but boy I sure left there tonight wishing I had that capacity like those amazing people that stood and shared their stories. I'm lucky that I get to travel to schools and speak to kids and perhaps inspire something in them. Tonight, I was the one inspired and came home, went on their site, and made a donation to this awesome group!

Thank you, Cathy, for thinking of me to invite. And a HUGE thank you to Seth & James for producing an incredible evening!! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Three Years Later, But Made it to Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots opened on Broadway on April 4, 2013. Two weeks later I had tickets to see the hot new show, but my father-in-law passed that very day and I never tried to see it again. Sitting in the Al Hirschfeld Theatre last night, I realized what a connection this show is for fathers and sons. My dad and my father-in-law were both more accepting of their sons' choices and lives than the two main characters in this musical, but I still couldn't help but think of them both while watching the show.

Based on the 2005 British film, the musical written by Harvey Fierstein with a score by Cyndi Lauper is basically an old-fashioned feel good musical and won 6 Tony awards. Charlie Price must step into his father's shoes in a failing business (making shoes) and when he meets a drag queen decides to create boots for a niche market. It's about letting go of preconceived notions of others and being who you are. The writing team uses La Cage Aux Folles as a blueprint (also written by Mr. Fierstein) where the drag queen is not one you would see on RuPaul's Drag Race (that can cut you with their tongue), but instead one that the straight people attending the theater will champion for and fall in love with. (The married man next to me loved the show.) And  why should he not? There is a lot to love on that stage.

The show felt very fresh to me with a very full audience (for a Monday night) after running for three years. I'm thrilled that the producers realize the show is the star and you don't need stunt casting because Alan Mingo, Jr. (having played the role in Toronto) is absolutely brilliant as Lola. Too many times I've seen actors in drag give a nod & wink to the audience, but Mr. Mingo inhabits the character and lives his life in all of his glory. I saw him last at Paper Mill Playhouse in The Little Mermaid and the same fire and dynamic personality he had then shines through again.  He is stunning to watch on stage! 

Aaron C. Finley recently took over the role of Charlie Price and has a wonderful singing voice, shares lots of acting levels, and tackles the challenge of his arc head on...and masters the red boots too!

The entire cast is wonderful under Jerry Mitchell's direction and choreography. Stage 'bits' feel as real now as when they were first blocked. I must give a shout out to Haven Burton and Daniel Stewart Sherman for two well done characters (without making them caricatures) and to Devin Trey Campbell as young Lola who has the moves!!

There is a lot of heart on the stage in this musical and a message that we should all be reminded of now and again. We're in a political climate where diversity seems to be a bad word...thanks to the cast and crew of Kinky Boots for reminding us that it's something to be celebrated! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Norbert and Girls, Girls, Girls

Some of the best concerts in New York City happen at Feinstein's/54 Below on 54th street. I've had many a great evening there, but never one where I wanted to run home and write about it.

Until tonight.

I am a huge fan of Norbert Leo Butz on stage. The man is an incredible singer, actor and puts his all into everything he does. (Hell, I saw Big Fish three times on Broadway because of him and then had the honor of playing his role this past June in a New Jersey production of that show.) But seeing him in a different surrounding - in a concert setting - it's pure magic. Don't go to Feinstein's thinking you are going to be hearing showtunes because Butz gives us much more. Taking us on a journey of dealing with all the numerous women in his life (daughters, wife, ex wife, mother, mother-in-law, nieces) he uses Greek stories of goddesses to weave a story that is engaging, enlightening, and pure entertainment. 

And then he opens that mouth and shares that voice that can send chills down my spine. There is a rawness and a truth in his singing that truly makes him one of my favorite male singers in New York City. I told my friend this evening he could easily have had a career as a country, blues singer had he decided to go that route. Lucky for us, he shares all of those colors in his song choices. Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town, Sunny Came Home, Come on Eileen, and oh yes...there is ONE showtune....Wig in A Box from Hedwig (not a standard for sure). 

Michael Moritz Jr. is the MD/pianist and he is incredible at his job as well (the entire band is top notch). The arrangements that Moritz does is truly wonderful. The man really is a a genius in his own right as a producer of several shows and projects. 

I could have stayed there for another hour tonight because it's just that entertaining. Butz is a performer who doesn't believe in giving 1/2 of anything. His entire body, heart, and soul are there on that stage and the sweat pours off of him showing just how hard he is working. And yet...he makes it feel effortless. From accompanying himself on the guitar to singing a moving ballad - he holds an audience in his hands. It's obvious why he's so beloved in New York. Television may have grabbed him up with Bloodline, but he's New York's son and we're lucky to have him as ours.

Do yourself a favor and get to 54th street to catch this show. It runs several nights until August 12th. (You can also grab the CD of the show from Broadway Records.) 

Monday, July 18, 2016

An Open Letter to Ivanka Trump

Dear Ivanka,

It is quite obvious how much you respect and admire your father. Children should look up to those that rear them. My father passed away in his late 50s, but he always instilled in me there was nothing I couldn't do if I put my mind to it. Having watched you for years, it's obvious you've been taught a similar thing from your dad. I remember seeing you years ago when you were younger at the movie theater in NYC holding tightly to your father for his support and protection. 

As we age, the roles often change with our parents and we step up in many different ways. I see your dad turns to you for so many decisions in his life (even when he was talking to celebrities and reality stars on TV). You were there in the fake board room giving your thoughts and concerns. You now do the same thing as your dad chose Mike Pence to add to his ticket and it seems he went with what you kids wanted versus going with his gut.

Only what is happening now isn't a studio set of a reality show. This is actual life and this is the largest job in our country. As a parent, don't you cringe when your dad says something that you'd hate for your child to repeat. That he allows bullying and bigoted rhetoric to be such a part of his campaign? Perhaps this was how he ran a business (and as someone who has been in business for years, I've dealt with many men like your dad), but being the leader of the free world it's not the same as working out deals with foreign countries to create a clothing line.

It's hard when I hear people discuss his negotiating skills in a board room and think that same skill set will work out for our country. It troubles me when his views on diversity center around the "lots and lots" of foreign people that work for him. As a New Yorker, how he can disregard the millions of Americans in the LGBT community is beyond me. But you - you're a younger generation. You have friends that cross political boundaries. You seem to have a level head on your shoulder. You can still love and respect your father, but call him out on his hateful bigotry. My dad was a great man, but I'm sure there were some that would have believed racism was flowing through his veins (even if it didn't seem to be something he would admit to). But that's the problem. There are millions of white Americans who harbor those feelings of bigotry, homophobia, racism and your dad has made it 'okay' to let those flags fly.

How I wish you could intervene with your father. Rein him in and get him on a track that would be good for ALL Americans. It's sad to think the legacy of what many believed to be a great entrepreneur will be replaced with a man that could destroy the very fabric of America and be compared to some of the worst leaders in world history. But he's your dad. You're proud. And that is truly sad.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cats is Back in NYC: A Preview

Back in the early 80s I became obsessed with the musical Cats. I honestly am not sure why. As a teen in Texas I don't know if it was the connection to Betty Buckley or having loved previous Andrew Lloyd Webber shows or just because I was a theater nut...something about it grabbed me. I bought the album, I bought the books, we traveled to New York City in '84 and tried to get tickets (to no avail), but finally when I moved to NYC in '87 I saw it. And saw it. And saw it. The show that never ended was on my 'go-to' list each time Grizabella would change. 

Me obsessed in '86
Many were shocked to hear that it was coming back to Broadway in 2016 after closing 16 years earlier (though other shows have returned in less time), but I still grabbed up tickets once it was announced. My husband had never seen it (along with a dear friend who missed it too) so four of us attended a matinee just after previews started.

Well, I'm happy to report that the show that is "now & forever" is still just as good the second time around. They made some cuts and changes that keep the musical moving and just over 2 hours and 15 minutes including the intermission. I was so entertained by this fresh, young company. (I emphasis young because some of them weren't even born when it started the first time back in the 80s.) 

I was amazed how much the lyrics and certain visuals all came back to me so quickly. Gillian Lynne's signature choreographed moments are there, but Andy Blankenbuehler (of Hamilton fame) has put his own touch on the show as well.  John Napier has created a set and costumes that remind us of the original while still being new. This cast is dancing and singing their butts off and it's absolutely wonderful! I usually sit back in the theater to take it all in, but my friends love sitting down front so we were on the second row and I could see the nuances these actors bring to their feline roles. 

Napier's 70th set for Cats

My husband (who only likes shows with a 'story') really enjoyed it. (Shocked me, I must say since the storyline for Cats is such a small string of a story.) He mentioned how the score sounds very 80s and he could hear other Lloyd Webber tunes in it. (Guess his years of being with me has turned him into a theater critic.)

Intermission: Old Deuteronomy
I want to give a shout out to a few performers that stood out to me (though I really enjoyed them all). Christopher Gurr brings great acting chops to Gus the theater cat, Tyler Hanes is serving Adam Lambert as Rum Tum Tugger, Eloise Kropp is an adorable Jennyanydots (that kept my gaze many times throughout), Andy Huntington Jones has a wonderful voice for our 'narrator' Munkustrap,  Jess LeProptto & Shonica Gooden exhausted me in a good way as Mungojerrie & Rumpleteazer, Sara Jean Ford's soprano soars even in ensemble numbers as Jellylorum, Ricky Ubeda puts his own 'spin' on Mistoffelees that is sheer brilliance, and Quentin Earl Darrington has the presence and powerful vocal chops that we all want from Old Deuteronomy. I could go on and on about each performer, but I'm sure people want to hear about the big G.

Right by our feet in front of stage
I'm going to try and not write about all of the Grizabellas that have come before (and I've seen many). I totally understand Sir. Andrew wanting to bring a name into his show. I get it. (My husband loves Leona Lewis and was very excited to see her.) But I don't think it's necessary. There are tons of Broadway women that could act and sing this role. And yes, the role must be acted, it is not all about "touch me" - the role is so much more even though it's only about 15 minutes worth of stage time. I want to believe that Ms. Lewis will continue to work with an acting coach to find the heart and pain of Grizabella so that her stage presence will match her vocals. I DID see a preview after all, so perhaps that will get better in time.

With all of this said - if you loved Cats before: see it again. If you never saw it and want to be able to form an actual opinion and not jump on the "hate Cats bandwagon" - see it. If you love electrifying dancing and great music, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Out of the Publishing Closet

Five years ago I set out on a journey in the publishing world and it's been amazing. During that time, I've worked with four other publishers (from indie publishers to larger publishers) and have learned so much. The world of self published authors has changed over the years and people get their literary fixes in all different types of ways.

One thing I did was to create my own publishing company back in 2011. I set up the company, purchased ISBNS, joined the IBPA, and immersed myself into that world. At first, it was to get some of my own stories out there (that I had not published via other publishers), but it quickly grew into something much more. In a "pay-it-forward" type of way, I started publishing other authors. I worked with and mentored them on marketing, social media, and the pitfalls I had experienced myself. I was so proud of our roster of authors at ASD Publishing and the fact they were out there in the world promoting their work and that I could be a small part of that. Honored and thankful to each of those authors for trusting me.

ASD Publishing grew into ASD Media & Entertainment when I decided to create a short film and then we also worked with a playwright on producing his show in NYC. The company expanded while I continued to tell our small family that as a one man band (who out sourced many of the jobs such as editing, book layout, etc), I had to be very choosy about who I was able to work with. Author contracts have about a 3 year shelf life and our contracts have run out and many of the authors have moved on to other publishers, but as I look at our anniversary this summer - boy, it was satisfying.

Did I get rich? Not at all. Did I meet lots of new people? Absolutely. Was I touched by having those authors in my life? Every day. 

So grateful to each of them and proud of what we accomplished in the first five years. I have no idea what will come next for ASD Media, but I figured after five years...I could finally come out of the closet and share that I was the man behind the curtain. It was fun at times when people in my life had no idea that ASD was actually ME. I'm not embarrassed by our little company.  It was a rewarding, exhausting, fulling experience & here's to what's next!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Guest Blog: Black Lives Matter...TOO

A dear friend of mine spoke so honestly and raw on Facebook last night that I asked if I could share her post on my blog. I said in yesterday's blog that as a white man I feel lost and unsure what to say or do. I appreciate her allowing me to share her feelings as a mother and an amazingly strong woman that I admire greatly.

Gwen's word:

I've been very silent today, as my emotions, like the emotions of so many others, have swung between anger, crying and fear. What is happening to black people, especially black men, is wrong and if you are a person of conscious you have to call it out. 
My husband and I have raised 5 children--2 of them are strong, smart and capable black men. However, we live in a country where they are constantly the victims of other people's suspicions. We shouldn't have had to give them the "talk" about how to interact with the police--but we did. We shouldn't have had to constantly harp on them about how they dressed and how they spoke, because people would make assumptions--but we did. We shouldn't have had to be on the phone today, with family and friends commiserating and shaking our heads and asking each other, why?--but we did. And we weren’t alone. I daresay most black people in this country were doing the same thing. 
I appreciate the support of my white friends—but I need you to understand that this is not a “black problem.” This is truly an American problem. We should not have to film the deaths of our husband, brothers and friends for the majority to “believe” that there is a problem. 
I’m going to continue to pray for our country—because I truly believe in the power of prayer. But I also believe in the power of work, and the Bible tells us that “faith without work is dead.” So what can I do—what can we all do? We can raise our voice—we can call our Members of Congress and say that instead of a 50th hearing into Hillary Clinton’s email, how about our elected officials call hearings on the problem with policing in the US, and what can be done to establish some best practices and real training for cops. 
Let me be clear--I do not hate policeman. My husband was a cop for 10 years. I hate that the first reaction of too many of them is to shoot a black person first. Yesterday (July 6) in North Carolina, a 62 year old white man fired a handgun during an altercation with a Wake County deputy after the man was seen pointing a shotgun at passing cars. The man, William Bruce Ray, was approached by a Deputy and pulled a handgun on him. The two wrestled and Ray even fired a shot during the incident. Ray however, was taken into custody and not physically harmed. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both had legal weapons, which they did not pull on the police, but they are both dead. You try explaining that one.
Let me end by sharing the words of Jesse Williams from his recent speech at the BET Awards. A speech which prompted some woman named Erin Smith to create a petition urging his firing from Grey’s Anatomy for what she called “a racist, hate speech against law enforcement and white people.” Jesse ended, what I viewed as an incredibly eloquent acceptance speech for a Humanitarian Award by saying “the burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, alright – stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down. We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil – black gold, ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is though… the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
So, when we say ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬, please do not come at me with “all lives matter.” Of course, they do. If you would just listen, what we’re really saying is “black lives matter, too”- We matter just as much. We love our sons, our husbands our brothers just as much and we are tired of having to bury them because they reacted too quickly or too slowly or didn’t bow quick enough. If you want to know what you can do—stand up and say something to those in power. If not—Then. Have. Several. Seats.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The War on Black Men

I'm heartbroken, yet feel helpless. Angry, yet unsure where to point that anger. Two mornings in a row I've found myself (like many in our country) grappling with the senseless deaths of African-American men. For anyone reading thinking this is an anti-police rant, it is not. I value our officers. I have had family members that serve in that capacity. There is good and bad in every group and I've always said that (black, white, purple, gay, straight - we all have bad eggs).

But one can't see these senseless deaths and not believe there is an epidemic occurring. The rules simply do not apply if you are a black man living in America and as a white man who cannot comprehend that at all, it infuriates me. I have friends tell me they have schooled their own children when stopped by police exactly how to respond, where to keep their hands on the wheel, etc. (It feels no different from the past where black men where told to keep their eyes down and not look "the white man" in the eye.) And time and time again, the perpetrator of these actions get off without any justice for the slain causing rightful outrage. We should be outraged! This simply isn't right. And think about it, we are only seeing the few caught on camera...this happens more times than we even know or is even reported.

Try and imagine what it must be like to live in that constant fear. To be the 4 year old girl in the back seat of Philandro Castile's car watching as 4 to 5 bullets are shot at him. To be Alton Sterling selling CDs and ending up on the ground filled with bullets. The list could go on and on...those are just the two names we know this week. You can't imagine it, because it's not part of your world. But it's part of ALL of our world. It's happening to our people. 

There is outrage over mass shootings, suicide bombings and there should be outrage as one by one our fellow Americans are being picked off due to trigger happy officers. I read that Philandro Castile's sister said it's like modern day lynching instead of getting hung from a tree, blacks are being killed on camera. This is not acceptable and something must be done...but what? Who steps up and takes control? People seem to get mad at the BlackLivesMatter movement or when they see a black minister leading a protest on TV. What do you believe should happen? 

A black man is killed and there is a rush to find a criminal record to play out across the media (as if that justifies the actions of a cop, who, btw,  would not know that history when pulling them over). A white male rapist gets a slap on the wrist and his accolades are shared in the media.  The NRA believes people have a right to carry a gun, yet if you're a black man - you don't get that right. An officer will shoot first and ask questions later (while with a white man they will talk him down to put the gun away). 

None of it makes sense. I am sick over it. I hate the division in our country and it just grows more and more because however you look at it - racism is alive and well in America and it's a horrible, ugly, stain on our country. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

History Was Made: Now What?

Back in 2008, I was a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. I had the sign on my lawn. I was very vocal in my support for her when many of my friends (and the country) got behind the 1st year senator from Illinois. When Obama became the nominee, I jumped behind him and gave him my full support and continued that support throughout his presidency. For me, it's a no-brainer: you support the candidate you believe will not only be best for the country as a whole, but also believes in your rights as a citizen and doesn't want to send you tumbling backwards (and in my case - back in the closet).

Here we are 8 years later and while I wasn't thrilled with candidates on either side of the aisle at first, I got behind the nominee that I believed would move our country forward. Not only do I believe Clinton has the country's best interest at heart, I fully believe she stands with me as someone in a same-sex marriage. (Something I know not one person in the Republican party can get behind.) While many will debate the way the Democratic Party counts delegates for days and weeks to come, she has more pledged delegates than Obama had in '08, she has the majority of pledged delegates in this election cycle, and yes - the super delegates will put her over the needed amount (same as Obama in '08 when he was declared the winner on June 3, 2008 - well before the convention that year). I was thrilled to watch her as she made history as the first female to become the presumptive nominee for a major party and I love reading the stories of parents with little girls all across the country that stayed up to watch her speech.

I admire the passion that people have for Mr. Sanders (even if I don't admire or believe all of his false promises). I love how he changed the discussion in our country and he has brought up many important topics that need to stay in the forefront as we move forward. As a senator, he can have a much more powerful platform now. AND if he had been the Democratic nominee, I would have gotten behind him 100%. Yet those that have worshipped Bernie and felt his burn all these months can't do the same thing that many of us did in 2008. I'm saddened by those that can't do the same thing now. That WON'T do the same thing.  

Instead, they feel Hillary is not a good choice and they want to tear apart the democratic party and rally behind an independent. I firmly believe our system needs to change so we are not a party system - but for now: WE STILL ARE. Putting your vote behind an independent (who, btw, used the Democratic Party for months to gain publicity and a following), is handing the election to Donald Trump. A man that will make us a laughing joke to other countries and frankly, could take us into WWIII with his ego.

But if that's more important to you than a woman who has a political record, who believes in our country and who WILL lead (even though many will write me about her horrible past and please don't bother repeating those same talking points to me) - then I guess I have to be ready for us to move backwards and for me to end back up without rights in our country. When that happens, it will be hard for me to look at those friends who enabled this 'independent revolution' to occur which ended up bringing our great country down under Trump's reign.