Monday, February 28, 2022

Interview with Curveball at the Crossroads Narrator Torian Brackett - Part 1


This is part 1 of a 2-hour long interview I did with Curveball at the Crossroads narrator Torian Brackett. I am not sure how many parts there will be, but each part will feature snippets from the audiobook. In this episode we talk about the development of the audiobook. Includes Torian's initial audition.

I learned a lot talking with Torian. I am not overly familiar with the audiobook market and industry, so this was a big learning experience. I hope viewers get as much from it as I did. Maybe these might even inspire people to check out the audiobook, as I think Torian did an amazing job.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Books, Blues, and Baseball - A Weekend in Tallahassee


A big part of being an author is selling your book. Some authors don't like that part. I love it. As an extrovert, I enjoy meeting people, I enjoy telling them about my book, and I love it when I complete a sale. 

Which honestly, is kinda weird as I have never worked in sales in my life and I have no desire to. Selling my book as a hobby is completely different from selling a product for a living. Maybe one day my book or books could be my living, but I am not expecting that at this point. This is just fun.

As mentioned in previous posts, my first book signing was scheduled at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, Florida on February 19th, 2022. Going to Tallahassee was a homecoming for me, as it was in Tallahassee way back in 2001 that I published my first article, a piece on library security sensors for the FSView & Florida Flambeau.

Tallahassee is a four hour drive from my home in Tampa. Tampa is a growing metro area and Tallahassee has seen its share of growth in the last 20 years. But small towns along the state highway to the Florida state capital haven't changed in two decades, probably even longer than that. It's rural Florida, deeply conservative, and very old fashioned. Not much changes along these roads. The Dairy Queen is still where it is, the gas stations are still where they are, the 35 mile per hour speed trap still exists, and the town famous for banning Satan is still just as small. Travelling from Tampa to Tallahassee is like driving through a time tunnel, where progress stands still.

I arrived in Tallahassee on Friday afternoon, just in time to meet with a college student I have been helping with resume and career advice. I remember being a clueless college student, so any help I can give is help I didn't have. I might have had a more stable career with a little guidance, so hopefully I can help someone not face the same challenges I have faced. As well, college students keep me open to new ideas and perspectives. There are new thoughts that having a younger "mentor" is a good thing. They help me as much as I help them.

After a Friday evening dinner, I spent the night at a friend's house. I had to get a good night's sleep for my big day on Saturday.

After brunch with one of my old professors, I arrived at the bookstore near 2pm. The signing was scheduled for 2:30, but I wanted to get there early in case we needed to set up. We didn't do a reading, a Q&A, or any other audience participation. I was set up with a chair, a table, and several copies of my book.

People were already there waiting for me before I arrived. Parents of a longtime friend had come in his place as he currently lived out of town. They bought two copies of the book, one for him and one for themselves. Besides my friend's parents, my old professor joined me, as well as several other old friends, some of which I hadn't seen in nearly 15 years. There was a steady stream of guests saying hello and buying my book from the bookstore. I would say my first official bookstore event went very well.

After the signing, my friend and I ventured a short ways out of Tallahassee to the Bradfordville Blues Club. The BBC is one of the best places in America to see live music. It is an old juke joint along an old dirt road where blues legends of yesterday, today, and tomorrow mingle. There is a long history to the Bradfordville Blues Club, and the love and respect the current owners have for the legacy is palpable.

What I did not know until recently was that a large grass field aside the Bradfordville Blues Club was once a baseball field. This discovery will be its own essay eventually, but whereas the BBC was an influence on Curveball at the Crossroads before, now Curveball at the Crossroads could almost be called a literary tribute to the Bradfordville Blues Club. 

With this new knowledge in mind, my friend and I took several pics of my Curveball at the Crossroads poster around the Bradfordville Blues Club. The artwork for my book was done by prominent blues artist Mojohand, so naturally the art of the book fit with the vibe of the bar. We also took several pics of the book poster on the old baseball field. Curveball at the Crossroads was in its spiritual home.

Before I left, I signed a book for the club and gave it to the club manager so he could give it to the owner. It was the least I could do.

After my friend, his girlfriend, and I got dinner, I returned to the Bradfordville Blues Club for the night concert featuring Tampa blues guitarist Selwyn Birchwood. Selwyn has recently become one of my favorite new blues players. Not only is he local, but he is also becoming nationally recognized for his original songwriting and blues guitar prowess. With any luck, he could be the next Robert Cray or Gary Clark, Jr. Don't be surprised to see his name in bigger and bigger places.

As I pulled into the club parking lot, the parking attendant told me to pull to the right of the bar near the band's van. She told me that if I had books with me, they would be cool with setting me up with a table to sell books during the show. I was flabbergasted. Earlier in the week, I messaged the club asking if I could sell books there, but didn't get a response. But they had gotten it and wanted Curveball at the Crossroads there.

Not only did Selwyn put on yet another great show, but I made money before, during. and after the show. I had a table six feet from the stage, right in front of the 200 or so people in the audience. And before the show, the owner of the Bradfordville Blues Club introduced me and my book to the crowd. Within minutes, people started coming up, talking to me, and buying books.

To sell my book at my favorite blues club was an unbelievable experience. 

Following a phenomenal Saturday night, I kept the blues and baseball vibe alive Sunday by attending a Florida State University baseball game. The weather was perfect, the field was pristine, and the sound of the ball pinging off the bat filled the air. There is no better daytime activity on an early spring day in North Florida than watching baseball. Of course, it always helps that the Seminoles won.

When the game was over, I drove to my friend's house, joined them for dinner, said farewell, and embarked on my return journey to Tampa. It was a perfect weekend of books, blues, and baseball.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Signing Curveball at the Crossroads at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, FL, FEB 19, 2022

Years ago, I was a fledgling young writer for the FSView & Florida Flambeau and a Creative Writing major at Florida State University. Although I wrote hundreds of articles on a wide array of subjects, and even had my own column for a few semesters, I always got excited to see my name in print. It was always a great feeling to know other people were reading my words. 

I credit my time in Tallahassee for giving me the confidence to write and keep writing. My time in Tallahassee gave me a writing bug that continued after I got my first fulltime job. I started blogging, which turned into freelancing, which eventually turned into a few books, including my first novel, Curveball at the Crossroads.

So I am super excited to share that I will be signing copies of my debut novel Curveball at the Crossroads at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, FL on Sat, Feb 19 at 2:30pm! Sharing my writing back where my writing started.

Hope to see y'all there!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Book Review: Fixing the Indies by Norm Kaiser

Throughout the last 15 years, I have gone to countless small professional wrestling shows. I have travelled to flea markets, gyms, small civic centers, and fairgrounds to support those trying to make a career in squared circle. While a lot of my travels were to support my brother who was working his way up the ranks, along the way I met some great people who put their bodies on the line in name of entertainment. From them, I learned a considerable amount about how the business of wrestling runs.

Years ago, I bought Norm Kaiser’s book “Fixing the Indies: Saving Independent Pro Wrestling from Itself”. I am not sure how I heard of it, but it has been sitting on my shelves for at least five years. One of my new year’s resolutions is to read some of my older books and not get distracted by new book purchases, so I figured Kaiser’s book would be a great curtain jerker for 2022.

(Curtain jerker – wrestling slang for the first match of the night.)

First and foremost, Fixing the Indies was written 10 years ago. Wrestling has changed a lot since, for better and for worse. Some of what Kaiser writes about are still problems with the business, from the top to the bottom. But some of his discussions makes him appear to be a crabby, old man who would be happy if pro wrestling promoters modelled their shows after MMA.

Let’s start with the positives: the book is well put together. It seems self-published and I cannot find any mention of Foxbat Books anywhere on the web. I noticed no typos in the text. I wish the photos were better aligned, but overall, the book is well done for a niche book.

In the book, the biggest positive is Kaiser’s emphasis on REALISM and COMBAT. He makes a lot of sense. Pro wrestling should never be mistaken for synchronized swimming. Unfortunately, pro wrestling shows are filled with “spot fests” – moves planned and performed with athleticism and crowd response in mind, not the acting of a true fight. Kaiser writes that pro wrestling should look like a fight, not a competition to see who can do the most flips, dives, or choreographed stunts. I think he is 100% correct.

Kaiser also gives good advice in regards to professionalism. Looking like a fighter is important. Matching colors are important. Being in shape is important. Having clean, if not, well-presented gear is important. Staying a character is important. I also like Kaiser’s advice that bad guys not mix it up with fans as it detracts from the bad guy’s prime focus of winning the match.

There is also good advice about merchandizing and promotions, but it is a mixed bag with negatives I will discuss shortly. 

Possibly the best part of the book is Kaiser’s book is his breakdown of heels, the bad guys of pro wrestling. Kaiser talks about character a lot. Some I agree with – too many flip-flops, stop listening to internet wrestling “experts”. Some I don’t – he is very negative on gimmicks and the characters that have made wrestling fun. But his analysis on heels was great.

Kaiser breaks down heels into 12 types:

  • The hater
  • The traitor
  • The coward
  • The bully
  • The hothead
  • The whiner
  • The opportunist
  • The sadist
  • The braggart
  • The madman
  • The pretty boy
  • The trash talker

He analyzes what makes each type effective and attractive. He advises not to be all of the above as characters would then be too cartoonish and unbelievable. Heels should work within the constraints of normal human behavior. It is that commonality to the average asshole that makes them hated. 

Now on to the negatives. 

Number 1, first and foremost, is credibility. I have no idea who Norm Kaiser is. There is no bio, no picture, no quotes from established names, no blurbs and reviews, and very few stories from the road. That kills this book. Kaiser can have all the ideas he wants, but unless they have been proven to make money, they are just his opinion. While he has some good points, the only part of the book where he claims to have any knowledge beyond opinion is in the physical fitness portion in the back of the book. There are too many segments that start with “I have been to wrestling matches, and here is what they should do better”. Kaiser needs to prove his bona fides.

Second, Kaiser weighs down the book with way too much social conservativism. He likes a very conservative style of old school wrestling and doesn’t understand the allure of anything else. He doesn’t understand why wrestlers come out to that hippity hop and why anyone would wear anything but trunks to the ring. No makeup, no tattoos, no masks, no jeans, no bare feet, no flair, no individuality. Often times, his social commentary borders on insulting, which hurts his credibility.

Third, even for a 2010 book, there are way too many outdated references. It is clear Kaiser is a late boomer or early Gen-Xer. There are references to M*A*S*H, Dukes of Hazard, Charleston Heston, and other pop culture icons from the 1970s or earlier. Using outdated references is a great way to lose the reader.

Fourth, Kaiser rarely ever mentions women. His only use for women in a wrestling show is as “rainmakers” at merch tables. He suggests promoters find attractive girls with large breasts to work the tables, because that’s what wrestling fans like to see. In nearly 350 pages of wrestling commentary, Kaiser never once discusses female wrestling. Nor does he discuss female wrestling fans, often suggesting that the only people who buy wrestling tickets are male. I know the book is 10 years old, but even then, there were great women working the independent wrestling circuit as well as millions of female wrestling fans.

And if he wasn’t being sexist, Kaiser is also insulting. Especially to anyone he doesn’t understand. For example, he writes that “nerds are typically great photographers, web designers, and computer people” and understanding technology is what makes them “nerds”. He then instructs would-be promoters to find a nerd and get them to do things for the promotion for free. This is straight-up bullshit and reeks of high school jock arrogance. And that is just the insult that stood out the most. There are many others. 

Overall, Fixing the Indies is like an independent wrestling show. There is some good content, some bad content, some cringy attempts at humor, and some outdated content that the promoter wants to shove in there because he likes it. For all it’s flaws, however, there are nuggets worth keeping and it is money well spent.

In conclusion, would I pay to see Kaiser’s promotion? Probably once or twice. More if I knew some of the performers.

Would it have personality? No.

Would it be tighter, cleaner, and more professional than 90% of independent wrestling shows? Yes.

Does Norm Kaiser need to get with the times, stop insulting people, include women, and better understand the audience of modern professional wrestling? Absolutely.

In the words of the ancient philosopher Joe Dirt, "It's not what you like. It's the consumer."

4/5 stars.