Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Do Men Love? How Do They FEEL When They Lose It?

Women are vocal about their feelings. When something upsets us, we find a girlfriend to talk to. We usually talk to all of our girlfriends because we know they'll listen, provide support, encouragement and if nothing else, a sounding board. Someone to vent to. It makes a huge difference. After we cry and rant and get all of the negative emotion out, we feel better.
What do men do? Do they cry? Sob? Talk to their friends and express their fears, hopes and vulnerabilities? The answer is, sometimes, yes they do. But not nearly as much as women.
In November of 2010, I was talking to a girlfriend about men. We discussed how men deal with a broken heart. We had our theories but it was a guessing game. She suggested that my next Reality Book should be about men and heartbreak. That I should interview them. The following December, I set out to do just that. I devised a questionnaire and put out the call for any willing participant.
By May 2011 my mother and writing partner, Ann Werner, and I had stories from thirty-eight men as well as observations of how men deal with lost love from psychics, therapists and bartenders. As the stories came in, I was always floored. These men were guaranteed anonymity and because of that, they felt safe to really share what goes on behind the veil.
The stories are all very different. Some men were dumped, some cheated on and  some widowed. Some of these men have been fortunate enough to have moved on and are now in happy relationships. What I found particularly interesting is in explaining how they deal with heartbreak, they also provide a glimpse into how they love. How important love and family is to them. How often does a man really let it all hang out and describe the pain of lost love? No man has ever confided in me that way. They may say they were hurt but that's as far as they'll go. They feel the need to appear strong, even when all they want to do is curl up into a ball and hide under the covers. Society expects men to "suck it up" and that is a lot to keep inside.
There's a Marine who got a Dear John email while serving in Iraq. When that story came in, I read it to my mother and selected friends. The response from all the women was the same. "WHAT A BITCH!" One married man with two very young girls lost his wife in a car accident. Another was dumped because his fiancé got fake boobs. The stories are so varied; as varied as the men who sent them in.

On a spiritual level, we are all in search of love. We all have the desire to be loved and when we are scared and vulnerable, we need reassurance that it's going to be OK. Part of how we can get through a break-up or losing someone we love is the knowledge that we are not alone. We can learn and get through our own trials a bit easier when we understand how others deal with it.
Ain't No Sunshine: Men Reveal The Pain Of Heartbreak was created to help both men and women have a better understanding of what men go through. It's an informal collection of stories with no commentary from us. We don't claim to have "the answer" or offer advice. You can read the stories and take away what you will. Each story will affect every reader differently. We are not experts or doctors. We simply wanted to collect these stories and get them out into the world. There is no other book at all like it. It is our hope that it will help to enlighten women regarding the male psyche as well as provide a path of recovery for those men who have experienced the wrenching pain of heartbreak by letting them know that they are not alone.

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Please visit http://www.arkstories.com/ to check out all of my works.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

These Go To Eleven

As an author, I hear a lot of "shoulds" "You should write a book about..." "You should incorporate graphs and analytics." "You should have interviewed me" (after my book is a finished product). When you're creative, you open yourself up to a lot of back-seat artists.

I don't say this with malice, only minor frustration. My answer to anyone telling me what I should do, is to reply "If you like the idea so much, you should do it."

I realize that not everyone will be interested in my topics. I also realize that not everyone will like my presentation. I have been fortunate to get really great reviews from strangers. People I don't know giving their honest and unbiased opinion. I have had some reviews that were less than favorable and sure, it stung. It stings the most when there is truth to the critique. I get over it and apply it to my next project and am ultimately happy that it was pointed out to me.

When I decided to create Reality Books, my goal was to only use stories from real people focusing on emotions. I did not want to tell the reader what to think. I don't want to analyze the data, incorporate charts and graphs and come to one conclusion, because these are people's experiences. Not scientific testing. My interviews are informal and I have no real control over who decides to share. I put out the call, if I get a good story, I use it. I try to be very careful to not alter the responses. I want it to be the author's words. Grammar is edited and if there are words that are used multiple times, I do change some of them to make it flow. But if I change the story too much, then I am not providing an accurate account of what was originally intended. It's not my story to tell.

If I were to analyze and conclude, it would be my interpretation. In my book The Virgin Diaries, seventy- two people share the emotional side of virginity loss. These are the nice folks who saw my ad and decided they wanted to contribute. I can conclude that most didn't get advice from anyone about first time sex. I can conclude that it's painful for females and that males have a much easier time, generally speaking. But is this new? Does it validate the stories and all of a sudden make what these people wrote have more merit? No.
The point is to collect all different kinds of experiences so that the readers can form their own conclusions. If you want data, graphs and charts, you have many other options. I am not a doctor nor am I an expert and I don't even want to be one. I think people are interesting and I like hearing about how it is for them. I trust the reader has a brain and can make up his or her own mind.

People want answers. They want a book or a TV show to say, "Here is an answer for you" so that life can be less confusing. But life IS confusing and those who are so quick to provide answers aren't (in my opinion) really making a huge difference.

Let's take the book The Rules. I bought it. It gives you all kinds of guidelines and examples of what you should do in order to win a man. Frankly, I thought it was a bunch of malarkey. It was a book of how to lie and manipulate men. Maybe these rules will work in the short term but if a man is into you, he'll call. Stupid tricks and games aren't going to win over the truth. And why would anyone want to force or manipulate someone into wanting them anyway? If it's genuine, it's real. If you have to jump through hoops and work with smoke and mirrors, I believe it's more a game than a real, honest relationship.

So I apply this to how I work. I will never claim to have your answer. I have a hard enough time knowing what my answer is. Perhaps I could all of a sudden promote myself as the "Go To Virginity Lady." Or the woman who has all the answers to how men deal with heartbreak. And maybe if I just make that proclamation, people might consider me an expert because I say I am and buy more of my books. But I would be a fraud. And I don't want that. I am just the woman who asks questions and lets everyone read the answers. You have the opportunity to then do your own analyzing and make up your own mind. This won't change. I am breaking out of the mold a bit and doing things the way I want to. Creating books that I want to read.

I certainly don't want to say that books like Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus have no value or are a bunch of malarkey. I read that book as well and though I do remember feeling like it had some really good things to say, I couldn't tell you what the message was. It didn't change my life. I didn't feel like I suddenly had the answers to the difference between men and women. I gained some insight. That is what I hope to achieve. Provide insight for those interested in the topic I am covering.

In case the title of this blog is confusing, I am including a link to one of my all-time favorite movies This Is Spinal Tap and in keeping with the message of this post, you can figure out how I came to title it!
These Go To Eleven

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Staci Greason: Author, Actress and All Around Cool Chick!

Staci Greason starred on the hit daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives, as the late Isabella Toscano-Black. She created the weekly food column "Dishing" for MODE magazine and is the author of the popular blog Anxiety: a Love Story. She lives in Southern California and is currently at work on her fourth novel.

Her novel The Last Great American Housewife is available on Amazon.

Kate Miller, the heroine of The Last Great American Housewife, finds her greatness, like a reverse Isabel Archer, by going into the wild. And also completely unlike Henry James, Staci Greason gives us endangered trees, men of nature, light drug-taking, plus sweetly wry humor, all served up in this redemptive and completely charming novel. -- Jim Krusoe, Toward You

Why do you write?

I’ve always turned everything into a story. It’s the way my mind works. (Ask my poor friends who get stuck with me on the phone!) Also, when I’m very sad or life isn’t going well, I write. I find I can move forward in my life in spite of circumstances if I’m focused on a writing project.

For example, I finished my first novel while suffering from a serious illness and working full-time at a grinding, low-paying job. I came home every night (and on the weekend), sat down and worked on my story. That novel Job’s Daughter landed me my first literary agent. Last year I built my blog Anxiety: a Love Story, fueled mostly by a bad relationship and more illness and humor. (In Buddhism we call this turning poison into medicine.)

When I was a kid I wrote love songs on my guitar and some fairly awful poetry. In my teens and twenties I studied singing and acting and wound up working on television. Just before I turned thirty, my artistic desire morphed back into writing. I couldn’t wait to stop being in front of the camera and spend all day locked in a room getting to know my characters.

Fast forward twenty years, I’ve written three novels (most recent The Last Great American Housewife, several screenplays and two television pilots. I also work as a ghost writer helping clients turn their ideas into marketable book proposals that get publishing deals. And then I write their books. I love learning how people think and live.

My next adventure is to get up on stage and do storytelling.

Describe the thrills, the frustrations and how you feel when you’re on a roll.

When I’m not writing, I’m crabby, I complain, I’m horrible to date and I feel like my life is going nowhere. Then, I start writing again.

There have been times in my writing career when I haven’t written anything worth a damn for a year. Or several years. Sometimes, the right partner makes the burden of finishing a script easier. Writing is hard work. Projects that start out great sometimes end up going nowhere. And then it’s like “oh my God, I can’t get those five years back.” Neglected children hidden in drawers make a lot of noise. I miss them. Novels nobody wants break my heart. It’s horrible.

There is no secret to writing except for rewriting. And little tricks you can play to get yourself writing again. Usually, I only feel better about writing when I’m done.

Last November, I had an amazing first as a writer: I sat down with a friend and created a treatment for a television pilot in one week. Bam. Done. And then I wrote the pilot script in under a month. It’s crazy when it happens like that.

Perhaps that’s what years of training have taught me: do the work.

What authors/genres do you read?

Many! When I was a kid my mom took us to the library every week. It was my favorite thing. I wanted to be a librarian. I loved Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder and romance novels, of course.
Shortlisted: I love gritty, salt-of-the-earth writers. My favorite books are: Ask the Dust, All the Names, The Shipping News, and All the Pretty Horses. I love those “life is rugged, tough and people are raw and beautiful” writers.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories are gorgeous. The poets: Mary Oliver, Naomi Shihab Nye, Bukowski and Merwin.

I also love the fantastic mind of the writer Jim Krusoe. (Who, thankfully, also happens to be my teacher.) More people should read his books. Check out Blood Lake & Other Stories.
And for a curve ball: Bridget Jones’ Diary is one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud, smartest books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading aloud to man in bed.

What is your next project?

No talking about it while writing because it will change anyway.

What is the best part of being an author?

Telling the truth through fiction. There is no one way to live a life. I always hope to shine a light on what it means to be a human being. We are all the same. We could help each other a lot more.

The worst part of beiing a writer?

Cash flow.

Why are books important to you?

They are the many worlds I can travel within our world. And the way to expand myself as a person.

What advice do you have for new authors?

This is the advice I was given by a fairly successful writer friend:
Just sit down and write it. Don’t read any books on how to write. Don’t go to college to learn how to write a story. Just write. Then put it in a drawer and start your next story or book. You get to where you’re going by going there.

Looking back I am happy that I followed his advice. At first I could only type five sentences before I needed to leave the house for the day. Over time, I learned to stay inside and write for hours. If I had pursued an MFA writing program I might have more connections and possibly be making a hell of a lot more money - but I’m not certain I would have retained my own style and voice. My confidence was too shaky. I thought writers were people who were way smarter than me.

I once took a storytelling class at UCLA. We had to show up with a piece already written to perform for the first class. I was pretty sure my piece was fairly awful. Eight weeks later, I was asked to perform that piece in the final class show- not any of the pieces I had written during the class. So, it was money well-spent to learn an important lesson.

Trust your own voice.  I do like being in my writers’ class now because it gives me a deadline. (Trick your writer.)

You have to decide how you work best for yourself.

Fun Fact: Once a soap opera star, Staci Greason turned 40 in her parents’ unfinished basement. Someday, she’ll finish a story about it.

Life Philosophy: Do what you love. Be prepared to fight really hard for it. Don’t give into your own inner negativity. Work harder than everyone else. Nobody really cares about whether or not you accomplish your dreams but you. Maybe one day people will pay you well for your work. If it never happens, at least you can die knowing, “I have done my best.”

Follow Staci on Twitter: @stacigreason

From Kimberley:
I was so pleased that Staci agreed to let me interview her. I never had the pleasure of working with or even meeting her in the seven years I appeared on Days but I was a fan of the show from the age of nine. Isabella was one of my favorite characters. Staci and I met via Twitter and I wish to thank her for being a part of my blog. Now, go buy her book! :) 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What It Was Like To Work On Days Of Our Lives

In 1977, when I was 9 years-old, I was flipping through the channels one weekday afternoon and happened upon a scene on Days Of Our Lives where two teens were about to engage in first time sex. The house could have caught fire and you would have had to pull me away from the TV. I was hooked and thus began my twenty plus year relationship with the show. Ironic that thirty some years later, I wrote a book about first time sex. 

In high school, I would watch it when I was home sick and on holidays. I turned many of my friends on to the show too. When we got a VCR, I got to record it and was back to watching it every day.
As with most soaps, many of the characters remained the same for decades. As a viewer, you feel as if these characters are part of your family. It doesn't matter that some of the plot lines are completely insane or implausible. It doesn't matter that continuity is often only a theory. Bo, Marlena, John and Maggie were my family. I cared about them and couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

When I was 20, I worked in a department store selling perfume near the NBC studios in Burbank where the show was taped. Many of the Days actors would come in. There were also a number of fragrance models I worked with who were also actors and they worked on Days. My mother worked as an extra on the show a few times before landing her role as Eliana, maid  to the evil Stefano DiMera.

When I was 21, I decided to pursue an acting career. I studied the Meisner Technique with Wayne Dvorak in Los Angeles. It was important to me that I understood what I was doing before I stood in front of a casting director. If I was horrible, I would surely only be remembered as the six foot blonde who didn't know what the hell she was doing. So, for two and a half years, I concentrated on honing my craft. When I graduated, my coach decided to create The Professional Level. Actors had to be voted in and we would continue to study as well as meet with casting directors and agents.

My mother, Ann Werner, also studied at Dvorak & Company. She graduated about a year before I did. We were both in the professional class when we heard Wayne knew Fran Bascom, the casting director for Days. We both hounded him to get her into the studio. We finally wore him down and Fran came to the studio with her assistant Ron Sperber. They hired pretty much everyone. I knew the entire back-story to my audition scene and felt like I had a leg up. I could tell they were impressed and they booked me. I was so excited. Not only had I booked my first national television show, it was DAYS! And to make it even better, two of my other classmates, Maria Kress and Kevin Molloy appeared in the scene with me. I played Marsha, a bitchy model. Maria was also a model and we were doing a photo shoot with Sami, Will, Carrie and Austin. I had several lines but the one I remember (and my favorite line of all time) was in reference to Will, Sami's son. I said "Life is hard enough without being born illegitimate."

It was December, 1995 when I first walked on to the set, I felt immediately comfortable. Even though everyone was a stranger to me, I felt like I knew these people. Everyone was friendly and I got to see the sets. I was so surprised at how much smaller everything looks in person Including the stars. Keep in mind, I am six feet tall, so I am usually the tallest person in any given situation but in the acting world, female height is rare, especially in soaps.

When my episode aired, I was happy with my performance. A few months later, they called me back. This time, I didn't have the safety net of my classmates and got very nervous. It showed on camera and to make matters worse, I looked directly at the camera while they were taping. They aired it. They are on such a strict schedule that things like that slip in. I am sure if I were one of the stars, it would have been re-taped. I was humiliated.

Time passed and lo and behold, they called me back to play a reporter. Once again, I worked with Sami and Carrie. My acting buddy Maria and I did the scene together.  I had another great line. I pointed to Sami and yelled to the newspaper photographer "Get a shot of her crying!"

About a year and a half after the first time I worked on the show, they called me in again to play a police officer and that was my character until my last day in late 2002. I worked more frequently and had the opportunity to really feel like I was a real part of the show, even if the role I played was a small one. I was part of the Salem PD. There were jokes made about the lack of intelligence of the Salem Police Department, primarily by the actors playing the cops. We called ourselves The Keystone Cops and laughed a lot. On one episode, we were searching for the all important murder weapon. One of the officer's lines to the head of police after being instructed to keep the search going into the wee hours of the night was something like "But it's dark." Oh, how I loved being a part of that show!

One of the other more memorable experiences I had was a day that we were shooting a Gala. I was an under-cover cop and got to wear a gown. The day was long and grueling, We were all on set early and taping until midnight. Deidre Hall aka Marlena (The Diva of Days) was in the scene and after rehearsal, we took a quick break. She pulled me to the side and gave me pointers on how to stand to get the most flattering light. She made an effort to help me even though she and I really didn't know each other. I was so touched. Everyone's moods were wearing quite thin and people started to get punchy. She, like the rest of us, wanted to go home and this was not the time to get sloppy, She scolded the naughty ones, I was grateful that someone took control. We all were very tired. I will never forget the kindness she showed me.

For the most part, I had a wonderful time on the show. Of course there were some people who were not so friendly and I will not name names. As with any line of work, some people are nice, some aren't. There was only one person on the show who was quite nasty and said things about me behind my back. I was alerted by someone in the make-up crew. I was not surprised by this because I'd overheard this person talking poorly about another actor on the show. But that is what happens with human beings. It didn't have a negative effect on my experience. Now, I can say that a soap star talked sh*t about me!

The last little story I will include is about my police uniform and my hair & make-up. The uniforms were designed for men and never quite fit me properly, especially in the hips. Men tend to have slimmer hips than women and with the holster I  wore, the pain would often be intense. Add to that the pants were always too short and on the day I complained and asked for longer ones, I was told they wouldn't shoot my whole body. Well, guess what? That was one of the episodes that my high-water pants were glaring. On top of all of that my hair and make-up were insane! They would often put my hair in a french twist and it felt as if I wore a pound of make-up. I certainly didn't look like your average female police officer. Though I did almost fool Ken Shocknek, an NBC news anchor. We were both having lunch at the NBC commissary and he was sitting by me. He kept staring and eventually asked me if I was a real cop to which I responded, "I'm not a cop but I play one on TV."