WHO AM I ANYWAY? AM I MY RESUME?
Yes, I know there’s a biography and bibliography page on this site that you could toggle over to if you want to know more about me. But I thought, as I haven’t posted any new material to the site for several weeks and don’t have any completed interviews in house, that it might be time to do a more in-depth profile of myself. The last time I did this, I had my nieces and nephews send me questions. This time, I’m just going to ramble. That is the name of the website, after all: Rambling On…
WHAT DO I STAND FOR? MOST NIGHTS I DON’T KNOW ANY MORE.
Not really true. I do know what I stand for.
I’m a subscriber to Wheaton’s Law: Don’t Be A Dick. I try to be the best person I can be. I also try to convince everyone I’m not a nice person. Apparently, I fail in this endeavor, but I’m still trying.
I believe in not arguing politics or religion in any forum in which I cannot see the other person’s face and/or hear their voice, because the written word is fraught with potential for misunderstanding. When asked, I’ll admit to being a somewhat central-leaning liberal as well as a Recovering Catholic, but neither of those topics is really open for debate on this site.
I’m a big supporter of the work done by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (in honor of my cousins Frank and Frank John); Ronald McDonald House (my friend Sam’s favorite cause), MDA, Soles4Souls (Billy Gilman’s charity), AIDS Research, Blessings in a Backpack (my friend Austin’s favorite cause), and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, to name a few – but if a cause is important enough to someone I care about, I’ll lend what support I can. And the American Cancer Society Relay For Life in Mahopac NY is always my top fundraising priority.
I’M NOT CRAZY, I’M JUST A LITTLE UNWELL
I’m a colon cancer survivor, diagnosed in September of 2005. Surgery took 1/3rd of my colon (and gave me one of my two favorite catch-phrases: “After surgery, I became a semi-colon.”) and a whole load of lymph nodes, and then there was chemo. It has not returned since, and I know how lucky I am and what the odds are that it will come back in some form eventually.
I’ve lost both parents, both maternal grand-parents, cousins and friends to various forms of cancer. I know more people battling cancer right now than seems logistically possible, even given my large circle of family, friends and acquaintances.
THAT’S MY PHILOSOPHY, DEFYING GRAVITY
My other favorite catch-phrase (which I keep working into the stories I write and keep cutting because it never quite fits): “Gravity doesn’t care who you fall for, and neither do I.”
I’m friends with a wide variety of people. I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, bi, trans; Caucasian, Asian, Anglo, Indian, African; rich, middle class or poor; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Wiccan, Atheist. If we bond over some common interest, that’s what matters to me. I don’t write anyone off on the basis of a belief; I write you off based on your behavior towards me and others. I try to do unto others as I would have done unto me, and that includes recognizing that others have the right to believe differently than I do.
For those to whom it matters: yes, I’m openly gay. You can’t read my Twitter, website, Livejournal or Facebook page without quickly becoming aware of this fact. I’m also brown-haired, hazel-eyed, right-handed (except when throwing a Frisbee, for some odd reason), an avowed omnivore (except for my “no fish, no fungus” rule), and not incredibly athletic but only slightly overweight. If any of these things is a deal-breaker for you … thanks for visiting, go your way in peace.
I’m also a huge fan of the arts, and will support any creative person whose work I find interesting and enjoyable, regardless of the type of art they are creating: fiction, theatre, movies and television, music, dance, painting, sculpture of all kinds are fair game.
WHERE’S MY HOLLYWOOD ENDING?
I didn’t get one of my own, so I support others.
That’s not as tragic as it sounds. In high school, I wanted to be an actor. I spent one semester at SUNY New Paltz in the fall of 1984, bombed out miserably, and spent the next five years working a day job, directing high school plays and participating in community theater. For part of that time, I worked with NYC acting coach Peter Sklar (who also worked with Rick Schroder, Lori Laughlin, Alison Smith, Ricki Lake, Brian Bloom and others) and went on auditions, but quickly discovered that I didn’t have the right mind-set to be an out-of-work actor in NYC. So I went back to college and got my teaching degree.
I spend a lot of time interviewing and promoting young actors like Sam Lant, Brandon Tyler Russell, Austin MacDonald, Garrett Palmer, Alivia Jae Latimer, Sarah DesJardins, and Taylor Hay because they remind me of me when I was that age and dreaming of a life on stage and screen … with one important difference: these kids are also passionate advocates for charities ranging from Ronald McDonald House to pet shelters, from Blessings in a Backpack to anti-bullying programs. They’re doing a lot more to change the world before they’ve graduated high school than I’ve managed through most of my life, and they’ve inspired me to do more.
In the past few years especially, I’ve become a more vocal support of the arts. Different day-job than two decades ago, but still a huge fan of artists of all types. I’ll support any creative person whose work I find interesting and enjoyable, whether that support is through crowd-funding or simply signal-boosting through social media.
I KINDA LIKE IT
Lately, I find I am particularly passionate about unsigned musical acts. Indie artists. It doesn’t matter whether they are old friends like my pals in The Dalliance and singer-songwriters Casey Stratton and Christina Lenway; the children of old friends, like singers Anthony Gargiula and Gabe Price; or new friends like Hollywood Ending and Reverse Order. It doesn’t matter if they’re Canadian (The Brothers Dube), Australian (Frank Dixon) or American (Kicking Daisies); country (Matt Johnson), rock (The New Royalty), pop (Anson Li) or alternative (Paradise Fears). Music of all kinds motivates me and inspires me, from classical to rap, perhaps because I never really learned to play an instrument and any musical theory I learned in high school has been long forgotten.
Of course, I don’t just listen to unsigned acts. To list everyone I love would take forever, but these days you’re likely to hear a mix of Matchbox Twenty, Sister Hazel, Brendan James, Alanis Morrisette, Rosanne Cash, Dvorak, Alan Parsons, Eminem and Broadway cast albums streaming from the nearest speakers. And STYX. Always STYX.
WELCOME TO THE GRAND ILLUSION
At various points in my life, I’ve been able to carry a tune outside of a paper bag. My voice isn’t as strong or as trained as it was in college, but I think I do pretty decently. (Witness my recent Justin Bieber cover video.) But it all started with STYX, on the stage of Mahopac High School in 1984 as one of the eight vocalists for the high school rock ensemble ILLUSION. We opened the show with “Grand Illusion” and ended with me singing lead on “Come Sail Away.” A defining moment of my life (and one I swear I will post the video of as soon as I can figure out how). Thirty years later, that school-sponsored rock group is still going strong. I’ve met recent cast-members and they have the same love for the group that we did when it started. Arts education matters.
SAVE A SEAT FOR ME ON THE LAST PLANE OUT
The reason most of the posts on this site in the past two years have been interviews is a combination of paying back the support I’ve been given and paying it forward to help others. But a common misconception is that interviewing is my full-time job.
It’s not. Everything I do on this site, I do for fun. I conduct most of my interviews via e-mail at night and on weekends, at the same time I’m working on my next short story. Because writing, as much as I love it, isn’t my full-time job, either.
My friend Leigh Geraghty joked that I’m an “international man of mystery” because I rarely give details of my day-job online. I prefer to keep work and home life separate. I’m still putting that teaching degree to use, even though I’m not in a standard classroom and I don’t teach kids. I’m an instructor for a small training company and my work sends me around the country throughout the year, so I do actually get to meet a lot of my fellow writers as well as many of the folks I’ve been privileged to interview.
THE PRINCE OF HUMBUG
I tell stories. It’s part of my day-job (in fact, a part of just about every full-time job I’ve ever held but one), it’s part of my interviewing, and it’s the one creative act I feel confident I can pull off on a regular basis.
Some of the stories I tell are true (for instance, for my day-job), some are cut from whole cloth. Some are an odd mix. The story “Canopus” on this site is a good example of that. I’ll let you decide how much is truth and not.
My published material is all listed elsewhere on the site, so I’m not going to rehash it all here.
But I’ve been writing fiction, telling stories, for as long as I can remember. Super-hero fan-fiction in grade and middle school. Plays in high school and college. I wrote a space opera novel in 10th grade that was equal parts Ray Bradbury and John Jakes. I joined the Super-Team Amateur Press Alliance (S-TAPA) in 1983 and have been a member in good standing for 30 years (even if my fiction input has not been consistent). I’m as like to tell a story at a campfire as I am to sing a silly off-key group participatory song.
The fact that I’m now somewhat consistently selling the stories I’m writing, well … it’s a dream come true, even if that whole acting thing didn’t work out.
CAN YOU BE COMPLETELY INCOMPLETE?
There’s a lot more I could say about myself, about my life history. It’s all great fodder for the stories I write, and some of it is even part of the stories I tell if you corner me at an event and I’m in a talking kind of mood: where all my various nicknames (Stormy, Thanny, Anton, “the other guy”) come from; the eight hour drive from Roanoke to New Jersey that once took 36 hours; community theater in an old train station where we’d have to freeze in place while the Amtrak zoomed past outside; the camping trip on the Delaware River with the Russian kid who said “I got my ass kicked by the river … I got my ass kicked by the rainstorm. How embarrassing is that?”
And then there are stories I keep to myself. We all have those, too.
I want to talk about the great connections I’ve made with fellow authors (a number of whom I’ve interviewed here), but that’s a full-on post of its own.
But I have to end this post somewhere, and this seems like the appropriate spot.
THAT IS, IF YOU WANT TO WIN
If you’ve stuck with me this long, I’d like to reward you with a little contest. Each bolded segment heading of this post is a song title or lyric. So here’s the contest:
- In a comment below, identify as many/all of the original artists as you can. (Give me the title/lyric and then the author so I can be sure you’re putting the right names together.)
- Yes, it’s okay to use iTunes, Facebook, Twitter or any other online search you want. My goal is to get you to check out some of these artists. You might like what you hear.
- Every so often, I’ll check the comments and choose a winner from those who have made the most correct identifications. The choice of winner will be completely random.
- Prize is a free copy of my book THE FIRFLAKE: A Christmas Story. You can find more information about the book elsewhere on this site.
- Leave some sort of contact info (even if it’s just a Twitter handle) so I can get in touch for mailing information if you win.
- All comments are set to be moderated (to cut down on spam stuff), so if you don’t see your comment right away, give me a few hours. Day-jobbery often delays my opportunity to approve comments.
And just for giggles, here’s that cover video of Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” again. And I lost another Kickstarter bet, so there will be a Britney Spears cover coming in a few weeks (we’re recording it over the holiday weekend). This vid’s just about to break 300 views! Go me!