Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Oscar goes to..........

Well, I watched the Academy Awards telecast last night, which means I stayed up way past my bedtime to see the end.  I Love the Oscars because, despite what some people say, they are the celebration of a job well done in a craft I love.  It is a chance to tell the people who entertain, inspire, and sometimes move, that they did a great job.  I like to think that the Academy is giving the award to deserving members of the film community, for me.  I take it kind of personal, which is silly I know, but I just do.  I always mark my ballot ahead of time and then check off the ones I get right and frown at the injustice when I am wrong.  How could they?  Obviously I know better than the ones that voted contrary to me!  I pick the winners about 90% of time most years and this year was no exception. (All though I did miss on Best Picture, I thought Social Network deserved it.)  I make sound logical decisions, forgoing my personal fondness for a film and voting for a movie that I might not particularly care for, but believe it deserves the award, more than my favorite.  I am proved right often, but sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised when the most deserved is also my fav and is awarded the prize.
During my College years, when I still thought there was a snowballs chance in hell that I would make a living as an actor, making movies, some day; I would fantasize about what it would be like to be there in person, rubbing elbows with the great artists of the film industry.  Getting dressed up and pontificating about it being “an honor just to be nominated.”  Today, I have to be satisfied living vicariously, thrilled for the winners, (Aaron Sorkin is my favorite writer, and he sooo deserved the award,) sad for the one’s that didn’t win, ( I think the song from Country Strong should have won) and maintaining the thinnest thread of connection to the beautiful people whose business is making movies.  I like to think of them as my friends.
I have had this affinity for the Oscars for as long as I can remember.  We used to have Oscar parties every year attended by dozens of people who shared my love of film.  They were lavish affairs, befitting the occasion.  One year we even dressed in tuxs and gowns just for fun and had a gourmet dinner prior to the show.  Now, since I relocated to the East coast it is more of a one on one celebration with the ceremony.  No group of people to commiserate with, just me, (and my lovely wife, wearing Dolce flannel PJs) sitting there in the living room, pretending I am in a seat, in the theatre along with all of the people I admire and respect, dreaming they are my peers.  "And the Oscar goes to...." the presenter opens the envelope and announces my name as the winner.  Hoorah for Hollywood!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pick Me

I was pondering life in Grammar School the other day, (don’t ask me why) and was thinking about how everything kind of revolved around “Pick Me!”  You know…..teams for dodge ball - called on by the teacher – sing in the chorus - be a member of the cool kids’ group.  (Never made that one.)  I remember how stressful those times were, even though I didn’t know that what I was feeling WAS stress, back then. 
I came to the realization that things did not change much during the course of my life.  High School was more of the same.  PLEASE pick me for the baseball team - the Yearbook Committee - study group, etc. - etc. etc.  Please, pick me to be your boyfriend.  College, it got worse.  Being a Drama Major I spent every non-required course moment auditioning.  Even my extra-curricular activities (Community Theatre) called for me to be evaluated and chosen to participate.  I played music and was always asking to be picked to play with this group or back up some singer.  There was of course the ever present “Pick me to be your boyfriend,” aspect.
When I finished with school it was “pick me for the job.” When I started my own business (I had the first Video Rental store in Southern California) it was “please pick my store to spend your money in.”  When I got into Law Enforcement it was a whole new level.  The layers of testing, just to be hired, was designed to be hard.  (I applied with almost 1000 other people, they hired seven of us!)  It didn’t stop there either.  Once I was sworn in there were specialized assignments, overtime details, extra duty; all the time vying for someone to “Pick Me!” to be a Motorcycle Officer (Got that one) or a Field Training Officer (Got that one too :)
Now I am trying to be an author.  Once again, with hat in hand I am asking “Pick me.”  Please be my agent, Please pick my book to read, pick my book to sell, review, tell your friends about. 
When I look back on the journey I can say that I am blessed.  I was “picked” quite a few times, and have a great deal to show for my participation.  But, it would be great to be 8 again and only be looking for a spot on the dodge ball team.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making A Difference

In 2009, Shannon Horton, RN of Virginia was overwhelmed by the staggering number of friends, and families of friends that were impacted by the consequences of Breast Cancer.  She decided to do “something” to make a difference.  Inspired by a calendar featuring British women of all ages she embarked on a project to produce a similar calendar featuring survivors of Breast Cancer and other women who had been impacted by this horrible decease.
Shannon arranged for a photographer to donate his time and talent.  She enlisted friends to be “models.”   She asked them to strip down and pose in a setting that represented their passions and interests, and was pleasantly surprised at the willingness of otherwise shy individuals who were anxious to participate for this worthy cause
Nurse Horton went about the arduous task of raising money to pay for the printing and production costs.  In a troubled time for American economics she managed to scrape up “sponsors” for the calendar’s individual months and eventually secured funds to make the project a reality. 
She arranged for a volunteer support staff of make-up artists, hair dressers, clerical and craft services Over a Sunday in April 2010 and another in May 2010 conducted a professional  “Figure Shoot” that resulted in images of women, of a variety of ages, sizes and walks of life captured in their natural beauty.
The resulting product was marketed with all proceeds going to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer research.
Shannon Horton’s modest project is meant to  be purchased and displayed in locations all over the world as a re enforcement of Breast Cancer awareness and a testament to the courage and determination of the woman who suffer with it and the families who stand by and support them.
She, the “model’s” who bare it all in the calendar, and all the participants in the production who made it all possible believe that in their small, humble way, they have made a difference.  As a “survivor’s” spouse I thank her.  If your interested in a calendar or just curious about the project check out -

Monday, February 21, 2011

The "Football"

In the mid 90s I was disappointed in Rock music.  The joy I had felt at the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Van Halen was now eroded by cookie cutter pop and unbearable rap .  My friend Jim introduced me to the music of Garth Brooks; a mixture of Country, Rock, and genius marketing.  It was something to get excited about in the world of Music again.  Jim and I made GARTH a “hobby.”  Like stamp collecting or antiquing we started to seek everything Garth Brooks.  It wasn’t fan obsession as much as something to do that was fun, and challenging.  We "capered" to go to as many concerts as we could within driving distance (If you haven’t seen Garth Live you’re missin somethin. The picture here is of Jim and Sherri when we were in the front row of an Anaheim Concert)  We once went to 6 shows in 8 days; 3 in Anaheim, 2 in LA and 1 in San Diego.  We went to tapings of television specials and late night talk shows that he was a guest on.  We started running into the same people at some of these events and struck up conversations and Garth related friendships.
Garth’s birthday had just passed and we discussed what we could do that would be something special for the next years birthday.  Something that a gazillianaire, award winning, music icon couldn’t just go down to Walmart and buy.  After brainstorming ideas we (about a half dozen of us) hit on what we thought was complicated, but perfect.  We pooled money and purchased a Takamine guitar, exactly like the one Garth plays.  We gave it a code name so that we could discuss the project in the presence of others.  We called it “The Football.”
For the next year we carried The “Football” around to every event we could attend where there was a person of some fame, performing or appearing.  We presented ourselves with the Football for their autographs.  This was no small feat.  We had to “get” to, in some cases, superstars; close enough to get their signatures, and get them to trust us that it was in fact a gift for Garth Brooks!  (Having police badges helped, sometimes.J  We were remarkably successful, and as Garth’s birthday approached every usable surface of the guitar (including the fret board) was covered in the scribbling of Music legends, new comers, and icons.  The “Football” project was a success beyond everything we had hoped for.  It had not been easy and more than once it had been downright difficult.  (A few people had to be really convinced that we were not con men )
We had made a connection with a person who worked for a radio station and was a “personal friend” of Garth’s.  She was going to be with him on his birthday and agreed to present him with the “Football” at his birthday party, that she was attending.  The six of us each wrote a short note expressing our best wishes and hoping he accepted the “Football” as a token of our appreciation for the entertainment he provide, to us, as well as millions of others.  We handed the “Football” off to her and waited anxiously to hear what his reaction was to our project.
(Insert sound of chirping birds here)

If you read my last post, this is how it relates to this one.  We NEVER heard what Garth thought.  We did not hear from his friend that delivered it, or saw any public notice of the gift.  We DO know he got it.  We ASSUME he liked it (who wouldn’t) but we were missing that acknowledgement of our efforts.  We are happy we undertook the project, it was fun.  We are happy we got it to him (there was a time when we were lost as to how we were going to accomplish that.)  The bottom line is, we did it FOR him, not for the applause, BUT it would have been nice to KNOW he liked it.  If I ever get the privilege to meet him one -on- one (fat chanceJ my first question would be; “Did you get the “Football?”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Unfinished Song: InitiateI just finished reading An Unfinished Song: Initiate by Tara Maya.  The greatest compliment I can give is that while I was readin it; I wanted to know “What happens next?”  Fantasy is one of my favorite genres and for once I found a story that didn’t involve sucking blood from someone’s neck.  It was exciting, fun, humorous and thought provoking.  If I have a complaint at all about the book, it’s that it was over too soon, and with a cliff hanger that left me aching for more.  The e-version I read on my Kindle had an excerpt from the sequel but I fought with myself NOT to read it.  I didn’t want to be teased, again, and want more- even more.  I enjoyed it very much while I was reading it, and after I finished it; it still occupied my thoughts.  I liked it so much that I wanted to reach out to the author and let her know how I felt about it. 
I consider myself first and foremost, an actor, ( Actor- noun- A person with an infinite capacity to accept praise.) and my writing is an extension of that.  I like to “perform” and I feel that “writing,” for someone else to read what I have created, is a performance.  As such, applause is always nice after the performance is over.  Readers very seldom get to applaud the efforts of an author.  With the advent of the Internet it is not only possible to applaud but also express other emotions that the work caused.  How cool is that?  As a reader I am grateful for that opportunity and as a writer I appreciate the feedback (good and bad) that comes my way. 
So I sent a short note to Ms. Maya to let her know I think her story is a “good read” and look forward to the sequel so I can see “what happens next.”  I hope she got the message, and is receptive to my “applause.”  Wouldn’t it be great if we could contact other “artists” we admire, directly; and know that they received the message and read it. 
Dear Sir Paul, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how much your music, along with the other lads, has meant to me over the last 40+ years.  Without exaggeration you were the strongest influence on my young life, and I carry your spirit with me to this day.  I just wish George and John were still with us to continue what was started so many years ago, and I am saddened deeply by their loss.  Did you ever think that “When I’m 64” would be so poignant?  Thanks again for all of the tunes, can’t wait to see what happen next.  Respectfully Submitted, etc. <sigh> 
I could send that out into cyber space, and he might even read it….somehow…it could happen….but I would never know he did, or that it made a bit of difference to him amid the millions of accolades he has received. 
Next time I will tell you the story of how a group of us reached out to one of our heroes, and the result of a year-long effort to give him a spectacular birthday present and the results.  Hopefully that tease will want you to tune in next time to “see what happens.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happily Ever After ?????

It’s Valentine’s Day season again.  Whenever I watch a movie about boy meeting girl, the staple of the Romantic Comedy/Drama genre, I always wonder what happened after the happy couple got together.  We, the audience, assume that they all live happily ever after, because this is of course why we watch those kinda movies.
It is easier to write a story with a happy ending because it is expected and you know what’s at the end of the road before you get there.  It is much more difficult to defy every-ones’ expectations and show the princess and her prince as just ordinary folk, who end up with ordinary problems and heartache despite their fairy tale meeting, courtship, and eventual coupling.
There are your exceptions of course, and they I think are interesting and sometimes just as entertaining as the “happily ever after” scenarios; the well written, well acted, and sometimes satisfying, not so happy ending.
“Mrs. Doubtfire” comes to mind, I was totally shocked when the divorced parents didn’t end up back together, but it WAS more realistic.  How brave was the writer to choose that ending?  In “Casablanca” the guy doesn’t get the girl, but he gets the consolation prize; a good friend instead.
“Prime” and “The Break Up” are also good examples of recent Rom Coms that don’t finish up with the right people ending up together.  Though to be fair, the ending does suggest that they COULD end up together.  
As a writer I think it is a hard choice to go for the non-traditional ending.  I am torn between being realistic, and giving the reader (or watcher) the “feel good” payoff to the story.  In comedy it is a lot easier.  You should at least try to stay within the parameters of real life.  Folks die, move away, loose interest, or find someone else.  That’s life, which doesn’t make for good comedy usually. 
I do know that as the watcher/reader I do LIKE the happy ending.  Even though I don’t KNOW for sure they will be happy ever after, at least at the end of the story, that we are privy to, it's all good.  I don’t care for stories as much when the guy doesn’t get the girl.  “War of the Roses” made me uncomfortable.  “P.S. I Love You” “Terms Of Endearment” and “Sweet November” were heart breaking, and even though I was glad I saw it (Because I LOVE ALL movies) I know I probably would not want to watch it again.
So the question is……Have you seen a Romantic movie, (or read a story,) without a happy ending, that was GREAT and you would watch over and over again?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Birthday Wishes

I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing Mrs. Lucille Godfrey for half of her life and the majority of mine. 

She has been many things to me:
A fellow actor, sharing a stage or taking my humble directions.
A worthy adversary, at various card games, battling late into the evenings.
A mother, piggy backing on my own mom to aid in my upbringing.
A friend, a fellow traveler, an ear for my ideas, eyes for my accomplishments, and a shaking head at my foolishness.  (Which in my defense I can say, “John helped”)

She provided me not only a second home, but a complete second family that I hold in the highest regard and count my blessings that they are a part of my life.  I will be eternally grateful that I was accepted into the Godfrey Clan and experienced the love and affection that flows through it, anchored by its’ matriarch, “Lukie.”

I can think of no better example of a well spent 90+ years than “Ma” Godfrey.  She is an inspiration to all of us and I wish her well on her birthday and send a sincere hope that the next 90 years go well for her.

Love Ya, Ma.

Respectfully Submitted,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Well we are up to the point in the story where it is almost over.
I had submitted my galley to the Company to their specifications.  It HAD to be in Word format (.doc) and NOT .pdf.  It could have no hard returns and had to be single spaced.
I had gone over it almost a hundred times in re-writes and I was sure there were no typo-s or sentence problems.  I had John proof-read and edit.  He had red penned it and I had corrected all that he had pointed out.  I had two people beta-read it and they gave it a clean bill of health.  I turned on the Word function that showed all of the commands in the document and I went through line by line, word by word, and made sure there were no orphans of any kind.  I held my breath and hit send, planting my child on the Company server, and waited for it to grow into print.
I received an e-mail from the Company with an attachment of my galley, in .PDF !!!!  Seriously?  OK…whatever.  The e-mail explained that I was entitled to 25 FREE corrections to any errors found in the galley.  I was to go through it (Me??  What are you guys doin?) and let them know page, line and word (s) that needed correcting.  Any errors over 25 I would be charged to correct.  Here was the kicker.  If I corrected less than 25 and found errors later in the process I would be charged.  The 25 FREE were a one-time only deal.  Well I was as sure as I could be that there were no errors, but, what the heck, couldn’t hurt to give it one more look. 
I found SIX !!!  I was astonished.  After finding the first two I really got obsessed and I went through and made sure there were no more after the four more.!!!  I was kicking myself.  How could I have missed those 6 ??  Glad I found them!  I filled in a Company form that pointed to the errors, sent it to the Company and again waited for my printed copies to materialize.
I received another e-mail.  They had fixed my errors as requested and attached was another .pdf copy for my FINAL run through, just in case.  Of course, if I found any errors it was now on my dime.  I went through the galley and found FOUR MORE ERRORS !!!   I KNOW they were not there before.  How was this possible?  Did the gremlins get into my files?  (I know I have not fed any after midnight, and I have made sure I haven’t gotten one wet)  I tried to call the Company, but I was only connected to voicemail (naturally) I left a frantic message.  This was outrageous!  As soon as I hung up the phone, and I mean immediately, an e-mail came through.  Cathy was sympathetic to my plight.  She told me that if I e-mailed her the errors, she would “personally” take care of it, and she would not charge me for it. (Thanks.)  I filled out the form again with the new corrections and sent it off. 
A couple of days later, I received an e-mail.  “Congratulations!!! You’re done.  Sit back, relax and 4-8 weeks from now you will have your copies in hand.” 
I thought back on the whole process.  Exactly WHAT had the Company done for my $1000??? Well actually…..nothing.  I paid for the cover design.  The “One on One” assistance was nothing more than e-mail communication that was slow and frustrating.  What they did do was list my book on and B& and made it available through the Internet on a site that was a simple page with a box for ordering it.  I could make the page more professional and creative looking if I would PAY for it.  Everything that you would expect them to do was delegated…..TO ME!  By selling me a “Package” it appeared that they were doing a lot but it was all smoke and mirrors.  What they were actually doing was pointing me towards tasks that needed to be done and then advising me (via e-mail attachments) on how to do it.
OK ….3 weeks later the package arrived.  My TEN free books ( that were included in the Package) were in the box (Along with instructions how to buy more at $10 each)  I was Thrilled!!!  Here were the fruits of all the hard work.  What started as a way to keep my mind occupied during a very hard time in my life had become something more…something to be proud of, and something that I could now share with others.  I was more than pleased.  Was it worth the trouble…well….yes it was.

I hope that Kelly Bloodsworth’s adventures become a series of novels.  I might use the Company again if I have to, but I have learned from my mistakes and it won’t cost me as much in time and/or money this time.  I would, of course, like to get an agent and a book deal for the further adventures of Kelly Bloodsworth, but if I don’t it is nice to know I have other options.  If any of you are considering self-publishing I think it is still a good option.  I will be discussiing some of the things that were a lot easier to accomplish than I thought they would be (no thanks to the Company.)
Stevie Nicks was right, “you cannot know the dream until you know the nightmare,” and I have been through both.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where Was I?

Let’s see…..where was I?  Oh yea…..”The Company.” 
I never did talk to “Alice” again.  I received an e-mail from “Cathy” who told me that we were now at a point in the process that she would take over.  She was my “Publishing Counselor” and was here to make sure everything went smooth from here on.  She also listed a phone number, which I called immediately.  I got voice mail which assured me that “Cathy” would get right back to me if I left a call back number, which I did.  She didn't.  I could write a dozen paragraphs about the frustration and slow pace of the process from here on, but it would be boring and in some cases redundant, so I will just hit the highlights.
The reason I chose the most expensive package was because of all the things it included.  I found out later that; for those “things” to happen, I had to “order” them and create an invoice.  Even though I wasn’t charged for them, I still had to create an order, for them to go into effect.  I found this out only after waiting patiently for the “things” to happen and then through several e-mails finding out I had to “order” them.
Whenever I called “Cathy” on the phone with a question I never talked to her, only voice mail.  In some cases I got an e-mail response to my question almost immediately, which led me to believe that “Cathy” sat at her desk, screened her calls, and would NOT answer the phone if it was one of HER authors;  So much for the “One on One” assistance.  This method of communication led to answers to questions that led to another question that had to be answered one at a time through a series of voice mails and e-mails.  You can imagine how slow this was.  I finally got the hint and stopped calling and just resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to talk “One on One” with anybody.
I had to write my own synopsis blurb for the back cover and my bio.   I had to upload my picture for the back cover to their server. I had to format my galley according to specifications outlined in an instruction memo that was very hard to understand.  The Company would do it for me, of course, for a price.  Then upload it to their server.  (Just what was it that they were doing for me for my $1000?)
As you might know the Cover of the book is probably the most important aspect of the publishing process.  A book is always judged by the cover no matter how much we tell people not to.  My package price included a cover, but it was one of a dozen generic scenes that I could add my own picture and text to.  If I wanted the Company to design a cover it would cost me another $300.  I am pretty good at Photoshop and have done some graphic design in my old job so I thought I could come up with a pretty good cover.  I built the cover in Photoshop and uploaded it to the Company server. 
Over more than a dozen e-mails back and forth I was told that it wasn’t “right.”  Each e-mail telling me my submission wasn’t right had the same attachment that spelled out in terms no normal person could understand what was REQUIRED for it to be right.  The e-mail did NOT however say what was specifically wrong with my submission, just that it was “wrong.”.  So I had to read and re read and re read the attachment to try and figure out what I had done wrong, try again, upload AGAIN, and get the next “It’s Wrong!” mail and start the process all over again.
After a month of this back and forth, I was so frustrated and upset I said, “Screw it.”  I e-mailed “Cathy.”  I would pay the $300 and let them do it.  She wrote me back, “Great” that will be $100 to change the order from “Do It Yourself” to the Company doing it.  "Please order this up-charge and pay for it as soon as possible, as we can not start your design until you pay.  So I had to pay them -  to pay them.  To be fair the cover they designed was “GREAT.”  I loved it!  It was much better than mine would have been, (working with their generic cover and just adding my pictures to it.)  Paying them $100 for the privilege just stuck in my craw though.
Now came the biggest, most frustrating and upsetting event in the whole process.  It was so horrible that at one point I was almost ready to forget the whole thing, kiss my money goodbye and walk away………………