Friday, January 27, 2023

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Book Review: Too Sweet — Inside the Indie Wrestling Revolution



Back in 2010, I ran social media for a small, local independent wrestling organization in Tampa, Florida. All-Star Wrestling of Florida was as small and as local as wrestling comes — a bar show featuring mostly talent from the Central Florida. Attendance was lucky to reach 100 paying patrons.

Despite the small presence, ASW Florida still attracted some big names in the wrestling world. WWF legend Sunny made an appearance. ECW legend Bill Alfonso made an appearance. Shawn Spears worked a few matches. Eventual GCW co-owner Danny DeManto was a regular contestant. Then-TNA stars Jay Lethal and Samoa Joe were frequent attendees who watched from the bar.

After ASW Florida folded in 2011, I stopped being as interested in the indy scene. I still attended show at wXw, Afa the Wild Samoan’s developmental, watching future WWE talent such as Sean Maluta, Kona Reeves, and the widely-traveled Mercedes Martinez. But I attended because the Anoa’i Family has become family to me and my family. Only going to wXw meant the underground wrestling scene was no longer my scene.

I also stopped writing about wrestling as much. For a while I was a guest writer on the now-defunct Walls of Jericholic — The Wrestling Blog website. Although we often had different opinions, their editor allowed me to write my views through the prism of the Florida indy scene.

So it was with great interest that I read Keith Elliot Greenberg’s “Too Sweet: Inside the Indie Wrestling Revolution”. Too Sweet covers independent wrestling from its beginning as “renegade promotions” in the territory days to a viable source of entertainment in the WWE-dominant days to the gathering of the top stars to create a WWE-level alternative in All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

Although Greenberg writes about the big Japanese wrestling leagues, and mentions pro wrestling in the UK and Mexico, he focuses most of the story on Ring of Honor, CHIKARA PRO, CZW, GCW, and other US-based independent organizations. Of course, hundreds, if not thousands, of other independent feds went unmentioned, but to write about them all would require volumes. Credit Greenberg for keeping a narrative, even if none of my local indies were mentioned.

Also to his credit, by keeping to these top independents, Greenberg stays away from the criticisms of independent wrestling — that is has led to a watered down product because everyone with a ring is putting on shows. As a matter of fact, Greenberg almost embraces the low bar of wrestling promotion. Veterans of yesteryear state the high bar kept the wrestling community tight and ensured the fanbase received a quality product for their money. The lowered bar means an open market, where fans dictate the type of entertainment they want to see. Greenberg seems to favor the latter, not the former.

While I enjoyed the tale of the indies, the narrative almost works against Greenberg. As the book progresses, the book becomes The Road to AEW, with the Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and other stars of the present organization becoming the focus of the book. The focus on the indie organizations is left behind. How they are doing in 2020 would have made a great epilogue. Perhaps that is covered in his book Follow the Buzzards: Pro Wrestling in the Age of COVID-19. I might have to pick that up as well.

(Quick aside: While WWE was hunkered down in Tropicana Field during the pandemic, I ran into WWE stars Jey Uso and Otis at several Tampa-area sports bars. Joined them a few times for dinner and drinks. Family is family.)

Despite my critique of Too Sweet’s final focus, the rise of AEW as a major wrestling promotion was and still is a big deal. AEW is an organization primarily run by wrestlers with the focus of taking on WWE. Unlike TNA/Impact, AEW was backed by a billionaire family and immediately landed a major TV deal. Initial investment combined with the wrestling buzz generated by market-savvy wrestlers made AEW’s launch “must-see TV”. That is definitely a story worth telling.

So what is next for the indies? Small wrestling organizations filled with weekend warriors doing their thing in flea markets, gyms, and VFW halls won’t get the same attention as AEW. But given the highly volatile business of pro wrestling, some small indies might last longer.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Curveball at the Crossroads review by Jayson Stark


Getting good reviews is one of the best parts of writing. Whether it is a book, an article, or anything in between, having someone say nice things about something you put your heart into is very rewarding.

Curveball at the Crossroads has gotten some very good reviews since its publication in 2020. Several fellow authors have said some very nice things about it. But I recently received a review from Jayson Stark, one of the best baseball writers in the business today. Jayson has not only written his own books, he has also covered baseball daily for years and has appeared on ESPN and MLB Network.

In baseball media circles, he is a big deal.

Thank you, Jayson, for the very kind words.  

"'Curveball at the Crossroads' reeled me in on page one, and I couldn't put it down. It's a book that makes you ask: What would YOU do for a second chance, to rediscover a lost talent? It's a question that hangs over every page of this book - and one you'll be thinking about long after you finish it."

- Jayson Stark, author, Baseball writer at The Athletic, Winner of 2019 Baseball Writers Association of America Career Excellence Award


Monday, January 2, 2023

Curveball at the Crossroads at Tiger Dust oddities store in Tampa

I have started making short videos about where to find my debut novel Curveball at the Crossroads. Besides online, it is available at several stores in the Tampa Bay area, to include Tiger Dust, an oddities and occult store in the Seminole Heights part of Tampa.


Highly recommend checking them out and picking up a signed copy of Curveball at the Crossroads there while you can!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Curveball at the Crossroads at Motorworks Brewery with the Bradenton Noles


On November 5th, I had the awesome opportunity to have a book signing with the Bradenton Seminole Club at Motorworks Brewery. The Bradenton Noles were kind enough to let me visit for the game watching party as the Seminoles took on the Miami Hurricanes.

Meeting the Bradenton Noles was a lot of fun. They are some great people and they bought a good amount of books. And Motorworks Brewery is a fun place for local beer.

Thanks again to the Bradenton Seminole Club for having me.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Connecting Jackie Robinson to Curveball at the Crossroads


Creating art puts you in elite company. Not everyone exercises their creative genius in their lifetime. Meeting other creators is an awesome feeling. Especially when your creation is connected to their creation through other associations.

As I've mentioned many times, my debut novel is entitled Curveball at the Crossroads. It is a baseball novel set in rural Mississippi about a young African-American baseball player who makes a deal with the Devil. The audio version of Curveball at the Crossroads is narrated by Torian Brackett. Torian did an amazing job.

A few months later, Torian posted on social media that he another baseball book project in the works. He was narrating "Call Him Jack: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Black Freedom Fighter" written by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long. I cannot confirm or deny that doing Curveball at the Crossroads opened Torian to additional baseball opportunities, but I like to think so.

A few months after Torian's announcement, New York-based rapper Skyzoo announced that he was part of a Jackie Robinson documentary entitled "Get to the Bag". Skyzoo dropped the trailer for his project in October 2022.


Now here is where I tie it all together. In mid-2021, Skyzoo performed in Tampa. He has been one of my favorite rappers for years and I could not miss the opportunity to see him perform. After the show, I realized I had a box of books in my car. I acquired a signed CD from him and gave him a signed copy of Curveball at the Crossroads. I remember writing in it that his music has gotten me through some tough times, so it was personal. It was very cool moment for me as a creator to present my creation to a creator that I admire.

I am not sure if Skyzoo has read Curveball at the Crossroads yet. But now there is a chain through creators, associates, and subject matter from my novel in Tampa, Florida through Mississippi to New York City and laying its home in Brooklyn. We are taking JaMark Reliford and the Blues to Ebbets Field and hip-hop.

Be sure to check out Curveball at the Crossroads as well as Torian's Jackie Robinson project and Skyzoo's Jackie Robinson documentary.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Curveball at the Crossroads at Bookstore1 Sarasota Book Fair October 22nd 2022

 


I love book fairs. As much as I love solo book signings, book fairs are better than solo book signings because I have a chance to meet fellow authors and writers. They also attract more people than solo book signings. They are a chance for me to see how other authors peddle their wears. I have learned a lot from fellow authors.

For example, the last few book fairs I have gone to I forgot to bring a mailing list. Mailing lists are important. Especially if I want to build a fanbase. 

This coming weekend, on October 22nd, 2022, I will be headed to Sarasota, Florida for the Bookstore1 Sarasota annual book fair. Bookstore1 is a very cute bookstore tucked in downtown Sarasota. They are around the corner and through the breezeway from a weekend market. I think there will be plenty of foot traffic for the book fair, which of course is a great thing.

Book fairs are also a chance to be outgoing and use my best sales pitch. I am basically carnival barking my book, trying to convince people to buy it instead of any of the other books for sale. But it is not a competition. It is a celebration of local authors and their creations.

But for real, Curveball at the Crossroads was runner-up, Best Book by a Local Author in 2021 for a reason.

The Bookstore1 Sarasota book fair should be a great time. Here is the link for more information:

https://www.sarasotabooks.com/fall2022-local-author-book-fair

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Curveball at the Crossroads in the FSView

 


Tallahassee Talent Promoted to the Big Leagues - Kani Schram, FSView, 10/2/2022

Since publishing Curveball at the Crossroads, I have had the honor of some great reviews and write-ups. People have compared me to WP Kinsella, Christopher Moore, and other fantastic authors. It is all very humbling and very special.

But no review has been more special than my most recent in the FSView and Florida Flambeau. The FSView and Florida Flambeau is the campus paper of my alma mater, Florida State University. It is also the newspaper where I got my start twenty years ago. It was the first place I saw my name in print.

For those curious, I have reprinted some of my old FSView articles here under the tag "The FSView Collection". Since the FSView's website doesn't have a good archive, I figure I am not breaking any copyright laws reposting my own stuff.

The FSView has always had a soft spot in my heart. Once the Florida Flambeau, the paper merged with the FSView in the 1990s and became the FSView and Florida Flambeau. The paper has a history of speaking truth to power, taking on the campus powers-that-be on several occasions. Even though I wrote for the Lifestyles section, I always kept the history of the paper in mind, especially if I had the chance to write about less popular groups, clubs, or people.

But to now be written about in the paper? That's awesome.

I want to thank writer Kani Schram. She is a freshman writer for the FSView and even though she is in the beginning of her writing career, she did a great job with the article on me. I was very impressed and I hope to read her work again as she continues to bigger things.

I don't know how many FSView alumni have continued writing. I don't know how many have been written about in the same paper that they got their start. It is an awesome feeling. Among all my reviews, this might be one of my favorite.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Talking to Drinking With Authors

 


In an attempt to promote Curveball at the Crossroads, I have made appearances on several podcasts. On the recommendation of fellow local author Mark Muncy, I contacted the fine folks at Drinking With Authors and we scheduled an online conversation.

About Drinking With Authors:

We always imagine a day when we’re having a drink at our favorite bar, dive, or even eatery and our favorite author comes through the doors. Much to your luck, they sit next to you and conversation ensues! That’s what Drinking With Authors is all about! Join us over drinks to discover the backstory and journey of authors like Tamara Lush, Connie Y Harris, Kenya Wright, Jonathan Maberry, Dan Wells, Jeffe Kennedy, Heather Graham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, and so many more. We interview authors all over the spectrum including those who just started their journey with their debut book and those who have scripted some of our favorite television and Netflix shows! Pour yourself a drink, pull up a seat, and join us as we get to know our favorite authors and gain some inspiration for fellow writers and sheer entertainment for fans!

Listen to my talk with Drinking With Authors here: