"All the time I'm not writing I feel like a criminal." -Fran Lebowitz

Thursday, August 15, 2013

T-47 Days & Counting - PRESIDENTIAL SUITE Rehearsals Begin

When I was a teenager, I had a brief and wildly unsuccessful stint on my high school’s speech & debate team. My category was Extemporaneous Speech (“Extemp”), where each competitor is given a current events question (e.g., “How has the Reagan Administration’s economic policies affected the morale of major American cities versus the American farmer?”), and then given a mere fifteen minutes or so to prepare, write, and rehearse a seven minute speech. The competitor then delivers that speech to between one and three already bored parents of other speech & debate club members, parents who sit in uncomfortable desk-chairs resenting the loss of their Saturday trapped in a dusty classroom deprived of air conditioning, forced to listen to a teenager who is not their own.

As mentioned, be it due to my relative lack of skill (the “common” wisdom) or to the insular, political world of high school speech & debate which championed only cliquish insiders and oppressed an outsider who participated only due to being cut from the J.V. basketball team (my interpretation), I was wildly unsuccessful at “Extemp”. But over the course of two years finishing fifth in heats of seven and failing to move onto any final rounds, ever, I did discover a modus operandi for beginning my speeches, an M.O. that I consider genius, and an M.O. that I’ve carried with me throughout my growth as an artist.

Back in 1986, most “Extemp” combatants went into battle with accordion folders stuffed with reams of clipped articles from the Daily Mail or archived issues of The Economist magazine (I imagine that now, the arsenal consists of an iPad). Upon receiving their question, they would scurry to a cafeteria table, spread out their research material, and feverishly begin to outline their speech with facts and statistics. Once the outline was complete, they would begin pacing the room, mumbling to themselves, rehearsing their speech in its entirety.

I would spend most of my preparation coming up with the perfect sports analogy.

That was my M.O. I began every “Extemp” speech with a sport analogy. It was my style, much like Bob Dylan playing acoustic or Spike Lee doing that conveyer belt thing with a character in every single one of his joints. Sports analogies in “Extemp” speeches was my thing. I did it every single time. Perhaps it was due to some deep-seeded resentment of having to participate in speech & debate rather than play on the basketball team. More likely, it was because sports was something that not only I knew, but knew could always be used as a metaphor, a metaphor for anything.

So I would spend much of my rehearsal time linking the fall of the Ferdinand Marcos regime in mid-80s Philippines to the responsibility Lou Carnesecca bore for the lackluster play of St. John’s in the Big East, or describing the military buildup of the the Soviet Union in the allegorical form of New York Giants linebacking corps, or making the clearly air-tight comparison between Chilean General Augusto Pinochet to George Steinbrenner. Sure, sure, I got into details eventually. I had a reasonable grasp on current events. I read U.S. News & World Report every week; I even enjoyed it. But my sports analogies were my signature. When the moment came to deliver my speech, I would stand up in front of the classroom full of parents and launch myself into Extemporaneous Speech eccentricity by saying something like, “Sino-Soviet relations could learn a lot from the rivalry between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadians.” I figured that by relating even the most subtle of world affairs to an aspect of sports, I was making a connection that would be seen by the judges as at once astute and relatable.

Wildly unsuccessful. Occasionally as I launched into explaining why Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry were exactly like George Schultz and Alexander Haig, I could see a bored father raise an eyebrow, intrigued simply by names he recognized. But most of the time, I could tell the small scowls on the faces of the mothers were pans of my efforts, and most of the time, the fathers’ eyebrows were raised in skepticism or even disdain. The crass, unserious world of sports had no place in the lofty realm of world affairs, even if it was only in the opening of a slapdash “Extemp” speech by a kid wearing khakis too baggy, a tie too long, a delivery too rushed, and a part of hair too much in the middle of his head.

But I still love sports analogies, precisely for the same reason. It’s trite and has been hammered to death by every columnist from Red Smith to Jay Mariotti, but trite is truth. The sports world is a microcosm for the rest of the world, for the real world. The sports world is perfect as an allegory for the real world because it contains all the same issues, the same ambiguity, the same human beings, but it also most times can provide some sort of an answer, a definition, a scoreboard.

So I use sports analogies still, and as I grew older and began writing, acting, and directing, the comparisons come even easier. If you try to create, and work with others trying to create together, it’s obvious that the parallels to an athletic team are not only simple to envision, but true. Working on a film, writing a script with someone, or acting in a play with a cast, all are team efforts where the same concepts hold true as they do in sports. A success becomes when you are submerging yourself for the good of the group, when you realize that the strength of the performance is only as good as the weakest link, when you trust in the others you’re on stage with or sitting in front of a computer with, when you can see that teamwork materialize before everyone’s eyes, when everyone’s listening, playing, committing, enjoying. Working.

This is quite a long-winded way of saying: I’m really excited about the team I’m working with right now.

Rehearsals for Presidential Suite began last week. The show’s got a large cast, thirteen, and with the composer and me, it’s a bigger roster than any NBA team's. All during the writing of the script, people warned me, “That’s a really big cast. You’re gonna have trouble filling the cast. You’re gonna have trouble getting ‘em all on the same page.” People told Matthew and me to cut the number of roles down, to make it simpler, to lessen the risk that something might not work. We didn’t do that, because we thought it did the story a disservice. People shook their heads. People said we’d be sorry.

But much like New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez, people are all too-often inaccurate. I like my team.

What I’ve been thrilled to discover over the past week is that the team that my partners and I have assembled is full of members who are talented, professional, and enthusiastic, full of players who make me smile everyday at something they do that’s a discovery to me. I might just have the 1970 New York Knicks. I might just have a team I’d be excited to use as an analogy in order to bore the parent of a high-school speech club member.

Or bore someone reading this blog. Whatever. I like my team. And when we open on September 27th, I don’t think we’re finishing fifth.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PRESIDENTIAL SUITE - T-52 Days & Counting

Things continue apace with Presidential Suite as we move towards the start of rehearsals this Saturday, August 10th. Here you can check out our first illustration, for the web-only, which we think gives a nice sense of the whimsical fun to be had during the show.

As the week progresses, I'm working on nailing down rehearsal time/space, listing, lining up, and hunting down the props and costumes that we're gonna need, and trying to rest up so I can be prepared for the next two months. Looking at my schedule, it does NOT appear as if I'm going to have much time to relax before we open on Friday, September 27th.

Every day seems to bring with it a different fire to put out, a different challenge to overcome, or a different obstacle to be avoided. But I'm determined during this process to take each thing as it comes, to roll with the punches and inevitable dramas that arise. I've committed to not reacting when something arises, to taking a step back, a deep breath, and a positive eye...Bets on how long that'll last?

Monday, July 29, 2013

T-60 DAYS & COUNTING - a Presidential Suite Update

Just a little update on how the World Premiere Production of Presidential Suite is going; I’ll try to post something at least once a week. On Saturday, we held the first cast table read of the script and if I may say, it went well enough and I had enough fun watching it that I’ve been able to stuff my self-loathing deep inside me for the time being (it’ll be back. Oh, oh, oh, yes! -pause- It will be back.) The entire cast was on hand for introductions to each other and to David, Matthew, and me, and the biggest issue all afternoon were those pesky parking meters on Lankershim Boulevard. An hour limit on Saturdays? That's crap.

Now, watching a cast read words that you’ve (a collective you’ve, in this instance) written can be a harrowing experience. I’ve figured out that the equation is:

[(X)*moments of genuine joy]/
[[(Y)*moments of horrible, horrible shame] +
(standard derivation of my own self-loathing)]*

*When dealing with an original play, take the quotient and square that sucker.

...And I can't speak for my co-writers, but it often times reduces me to a fraction of your normal self, a wee decimal point stuck between your confidence and your positive attitude. But Saturday seemed to go well: actual laughs (plural) from the cast, nobody fell asleep, and no one has texted me long after I’ve gone to sleep begging out of the production. I may or may not have changed my number.

Thus, a measured success.

I had more fun on Saturday than I’ve had in a long, long time. So, I'll amend that. A success.

So thanks to the cast, to David, and to Matthew, for that. Speaking of the cast, I'm already convinced they're going to make this play the best it can be. We rounded up a bunch of talented talents, funny funnies, amassed ourselves a nice little set of baseball cards that are gonna look nice in two months.

Now, onto all the work that has to be done. Gotta figure out the set, gotta start work on the costumes. Gotta check in with the space...Uh-oh, the self-loathing. I feel it bubbling up....

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Matthew and I hope the summer finds you well and not yet melted into a pool of DNA drippings. We wanted to give you an update on the status of the World Premiere Production of Presidential Suite. Things have begun to move forward in earnest. In addition to setting the WHEN - we open Friday, September 27th and run Friday/Saturday/Sunday(matinee) through Sunday, October 27th - and the WHERE (the Whitmore at the Whitmore-Lindley in North Hollywood), we have now latched upon the WHO.

That’s right, we’ve finally “casted up”. After holding a round of auditions and a round of call-backs, and determining the best analogy to casting a show is - running around a schoolyard, trying to collect the perfect set of baseball cards as they blow across the asphalt during a brisk wind -

“(picks up card) No, this Tony Gwynn’s not mine...(trots, picks up card) Nah, I’ve already got a Tom Seaver...Ooh, is that a Greg Maddux?...(runs, picks up card) Nope...(runs, scrapes fingernails on asphalt). We can’t use anyone on steroids...Sigh, this Robin Yount can’t do half the postseason...”

-we now have a full cast for Presidential Suite. Continuing the analogy, it’s a great set of cards we’re putting in plastic, closing up in our Trapper Keeper binder, and we’re not letting that jerkface Mikey Wyatt get his grubby fingers anywhere near it. We believe we’ve got a terrific cast that’s going to make this show something special. Confirmation of how great we are at casting will begin this Saturday night, when the cast meets to conduct the first table read of the script.

So we’ve got the what, the who, the when, and the where. We’ll update you more as the production continues, as we built up the HOW. But let us now thank you again for all your support, monetarily and otherwise, towards helping get Presidential Suite up off the ground and speeding forward towards the end of September and its World Premiere.

Check out our Facebook page and feel free to email us with any questions you may have about how things are progressing. But we’ll talk again soon.


PS: Matthew, here. Although I dabbled in baseball card trading as a youth, it was never really my thing.  I probably would have described the casting process as herding feral cats.  See, I made it my own by adding "feral" and making it about cats.  That's why Bill and I work so well together.  Different interests but shared sensibilities. That said, I couldn't be more thrilled with our cast and full of excitement about mounting this production.Thanks again for your support and I look forward to seeing you at the theatre.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Beach Reading Special - Get The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription ebook Free...

...for the next five days (starting Friday, July 19th), I'll be offering The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription ebook for Amazon Kindle free. Free is good. Free is nice. Free, it's even fun to say.

Say it with me: "Free."

If you own a Kindle and have an Amazon Prime Membership, go to and borrow The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription for free - I can't stop saying it - your free copy.

For all others, the cost of an ebook copy of The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription has been lowered to $1.99. Not free, but not bad either:

However you download the novel, after you read it, I would appreciate it if you posted an honest review, and spread the word to all you know.

Free. Free. Free.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I See a Forest. But Yes. Yes - I See Trees, Too.

Almost exactly a year ago, I self-published my first novel, The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription. It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my creative life so far. But as I got closer to putting the book out into the world, I knew there had to be a point in the process where it got easier. There had to be. At each stage before I released it - writing it, re-writing it, proofreading it, formatting it - I kept assuring myself that once the novel was published, once it was out there for people to purchase, to read, to hopefully enjoy, the hard part would be over.

Thus occurred the set-up for the punch line of that particular lesson.

A month or so after I released The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription, I was chatting online with a longtime friend of mine. She asked how sales of the novel were going (everyone, everyone, always wants to know how sales are going). I admitted that I wished they were going a little better. She typed, “Well, you’re sure to get at least 337 sales, aren’t you?” To me it was an oddly specific number; I asked how she could predict that. She typed back, “Isn’t that how many Facebook friends you have?”

And as Elaine Benes once said in Seinfeld, “And I laughed and I laughed and I laughed...”

The hard part of writing a novel - well, it’s all hard parts. But the hard part that comes with a sense of having absolutely no control is the part after you put it out there. Trying to get people to notice it, to pay attention to it, to drop “good money” on it, to read it, to recommend it to others, that has been more difficult only because I’m not the only one involved in the attempt. If writing a novel is like climbing a mountain, then self-publishing and self-promoting and self-marketing it is like reaching the top of that first mountain only to realize it’s part of an entire range of mountains, a range full of mountains that move and duck and scoff at you, mountains that ask if there’s a discount for mountains that are friends, mountains that claim they don’t read and whose eyes glaze over while they wait to tell you what they, the mountain, is up to...

...Not to mention the mountains that you create yourself. Publishing a novel has been a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t change for anything, but it’s also brought to the forefront of my mind the millions of different ways I avoid moving forward. There’s no need to get into the psychological swamp that is my self-loathing nor the psychological desert that is my motivation, but if the past year has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll seize the smallest reason I can to keep myself from pushing myself to become a better writer, a better artist.

Which brings me back to Facebook.

I enjoy Facebook. I enjoy posting things on Facebook and if I do say so myself, if you’ve wandered over to this blog to check out this essay I considered titling, “No I Am NOT Pouting!” you’ve enjoyed some of the things I’ve posted on Facebook, too. Being able to conceive of a short joke, a slight comic confection in the form of a “Facebook Playlet,” to put it out there for my friends to see and enjoy, has been gratifying. But I’m going to stop posting anything save for strictly business over there, and start putting my “pieces,” as they were, over here. Because it’s become another mountain.

Molehill? No. Facebook is a wonderful medium for connection and for expressing oneself. But for me, it’s become another lily pad in the swamp or another mirage in the desert* that keeps me from pushing myself as a writer. I find myself growing frustrated with the format before realizing it’s the format I’m given, and if it frustrates me, I need to find another one. But more importantly, leaving that work for this blog might push me towards making those pieces better, more ambitious, and more permanent as work. It might push me to create work people seek out, recommend, and not take for granted. I deserve that. Even if I don’t deserve that, I deserve to push myself to get that. Finally, I think if I’m to grow as a writer I need to start striving to gain fans, not friends. If that makes sense.

Chances are excellent you couldn’t give a shit about any of this. Fine. But it’s my blog. if you have enjoyed my “stuff” on Facebook in the past, please start checking in over here. I’m committing to making this a more professional enterprise. And if I do say so, I need to make this more professional for me most of all. So, if you’ve enjoyed my Facebook work - for as slight as it may be, I want it to be considered my work - spread the word. For Chrissakes - if you help me get more fans, I’ll be your best friend.

*Not a mixed metaphor - the metaphor was topological ecosystems overall, including mountain ranges.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Presidential Suite - Auditions

We will be holding auditions for _Presidential Suite on Saturday, July 6th and Sunday, July 7th, from 10a-3p. If you're interested, email me privately and I'll fill you in on details.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Presidential Suite - SHOW DATES ANNOUNCED

Okay, so here we go. The time has come. The future is now.

Well, the future is in late-September. But still, it’s pretty cool.

There are now official show dates for PRESIDENTIAL SUITE, the hilarious comic musical written by Matthew Hoffman & me, with amazing music by David Johnson. The World Premiere of PRESIDENTIAL SUITE will run from Friday, September 27th for five weekends, through Sunday, October 27th, at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre, 11006 Magnolia Boulevard, in the wonderful NoHo Arts District.

Now, production is just revving up. But we wanted to keep you posted. Like our page:

Tell your friends to like the Facebook page, demand your co-workers and the baristas who sell you your morning venti soy latte and the bartenders who serve your evening beer ALSO like the Facebook page, and tell THEIR friends, and so on and so forth. Also be sure to keep checking this blog for updates and diary entries and my exultations and my whining and my conspiracy theories and my pleading and occasionally, my poetry.

Just kidding about the poetry. MY POETRY’S PRIVATE.

But hey. I’m excited about this. I hope you are to. Or I hope you will be. So keep your eyes here. We’re proud of this one.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Boise Readings

Hello, everyone - just to provide an update on some upcoming events I have in the great city of Boise, Idaho...

On Monday, April 29th, I will be reading from my novel The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription at a private event for a book club. This is my first reading without the help of my fellow Los Chupacabras. I'm doing it all by my lonesome, so chances are slight that I'll collapse from the pressure. As it's a private event, hopefully the fallout will be minimal.

On Tuesday, April 30th, at 6:30 p.m. MDT I will be reading from and signing copies of The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription at The Rediscovered Bookshop - 180 N. 8th Street in downtown Boise. This is my first reading at a bookstore and I'm extremely excited - though the chances that I'll collapse from the pressure are, I would estimate, slightly higher.

If on the off-chance you want to attend the Monday event, email me and I'll see what I can do. If you can make it to Rediscovered on Tuesday, come up and say hello, then yell at me for not posting enough on this blog.

As always, the novel's available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and here on this site. Click on the book at the right.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A VGP Review & My First On-Line Interview...

A belated Happy New Year, everyone. A couple of developments on The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription front. First, Candi at the blog acrimereadersblog was kind enough to post of review of the novel, one which was certainly nice to wake up to on a Sunday morning. Also, I participated in my first online interview with Mandy for her website withfivequestions - where I tried to strike the perfect balance between "serious analysis" and "self-deprecating wit." Go check it out and then let me know how far off I was...

Now, I know you've been a little distracted reading this post. And I know what you're worried about. You're worried:

"This Amazon gift card I got for Christmas/Hanukkah that's cluttering up my wallet. What on Earth am I going to use that on?"

Well, I'm here to help. The Vanilla Gigolo Prescription is available there in paperback and on Kindle. It's a great way to use your gift, support the arts, and clean up the clutter in your wallet. And don't worry, using a gift card is almost like not supporting me directly at all. You can always tell someone who spots the book deep in your closet, "Ugh. I got that as a gift, dude."

Hope to be posting more often as the weeks go by, updating you all on M.V.P. developments and other artistic sundries. Now. Throw out your Christmas tree or menorah*, already.

*Only if it's made of pine needles...