Book Review – The Other Side Of Oz

TITLE: The Other Side of Oz: An Autobiography
AUTHOR: Buddy Ebsen
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 1994

This book lets Buddy tell the story of his acting career.  I picked it up at the dollar store brand new a couple weeks ago  (who the heck is stockpliling quantities of Hardback books for twenty years?!), and it was a fairly quick read.

Fundamentally, I had a few issues with this – first of all, Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man and acted for just a couple weeks before the costume tried to kill him and he ended up hospitalized while his lung re-inflated.  So titling your book after the most famous role you never had seems weird.  Clearly he was trying to cash in on that fame, even though he never got to have any of it.  (I don’t think it’s much of an argument to say that The Wizard of Oz has way more staying power than any of the roles he ever had.  A lot of them are very dated to the time period they came out of.  TWoO seems to have a little bit better longevity as far as that sort of thing is concerned.)

Second of all, this book is not an autobiography.  An autobiography is supposed to cover your entire life up to that point.  A memoir, otoh, covers a specific aspect of your life.  So a book that barely says anything about his childhood, overlooks any aspect of his family life except for a few random mentions of things (“By this time I was divorced and had a new wife.  She suggested I take this role..”)  and doesn’t cover the duration, is certainly not an autobiography.  Honestly, I lose a little faith any time a publisher can’t manage to get those details right.  Then again, they couldn’t manage to sell this volume for 20 years so maybe that explains a lot.

With that said, the book is pretty much Mr. Ebsen telling stories.  Each chapter has a different focus (Shirley Temple, Vaudeville with his sister, acting without his sister, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc).  Unfortunately for a book about somebody that spent his time on the screen, there’s very little content about any of his shows.  “Walt Disney put a show on and there I was…”  isn’t really a description about Daniel Boone.  And if you’re covering fifty years in a career, maybe you *should* explain something or other about the shows because there’s a good chance your fans haven’t been around for all of it, and it’d be cool to get a better understanding of the show anyway.

The book suffers horribly from lack of content and organization.  At first it’s in order, then it skips around.  One chapter pretty much just exists to say that he worked with a famous but now dead actress.  I feel like somebody took a bun, added lettuce and ketchup, and then gave it to us before they put the burger patty there.  In other words, they forgot t he meat of the book.  Plus, don’t let the binding deceive you – the pages are thick and glossy, there are a ton of photos, and the font is large and much bolder than it needs to be.  In a more standard book format, this book would have been half the thickness.

I guess it’s not totally bad.  Some of the stories were entertaining.  It’s just not what I expected when I grabbed it at the store.

Over all, I’m only going to give it 2/5 stars.  If you like Hollywood or were a fan of Buddy, go ahead and give this a read if you come across it.  But just be aware that there’s a lot of fluff and it’s not as it appears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review – Choose Your Own Autobiography

Title: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Author: Neil Patrick Harris
Format: Hardback
Published: 2014

NPH is a trip, and I wish I knew him in real life.  This autobiography totally proves that.

For starters, the book is a throw back to the choose your own adventure books of my childhood (and his, he’s not that much older than me), complete with making you flip back and forth around the book for the whole story.

I gotta say, I was totally into those books as a kid, but I had a knack for *always* picking the fastest route to end the book.  I’d turn maybe two pages and then BOOM! i was dead or something.  And in this book, sure enough, I picked the fastest way out and was done in less than five pages.  I’m awesome like that.

So I read through the second attempt and managed to get a pretty good view of his early life – childhood and early breaks – and a huge chunk of his personal life,  but somehow managed to totally miss everything about HIMYM and movies and everything else.  Oops.  But I’ve found the cocktail recipe multiple times, so I’m probably going to need to try that.

Oh, and if you’re not a fan of the CYOA books, I’m going to have to explain them.  You’d read a section, written in second person, and at the end, it’d give you a choice.  You’d pick one and flip to the corresponding page.  Same here, except instead of “A bear is trying to eat you, what do you do?” You’re getting choices like “to read about the time you appeared on broadway…”

 

It’s a must for a child of the 80s, and a must for any NPH/HIMYM/Doogie fan.

Read this book.  Several times.

5/5.

 

 

Writer Wednesday – Bobby Nash

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
My name is Bobby Nash. I am a writer. I write novels, comic books, short stories, and screenplays. It’s the coolest job.

Here’s my official bio…
About Bobby Nash:
From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, 2013 Pulp Ark Award Winning Best Author, Bobby Nash writes a little bit of everything including novels, comic books, short prose, graphic novels, screenplays, media tie-ins, and more.
Between writing deadlines, Bobby is an actor and extra in movies and television, including appearances in Deviant Pictures’ Fat Chance, FOX’s The Following, USA’s Neil, Inc. and more. He is also the co-host of the Earth Station One podcast (www.esopodcast.com) and a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.
Bobby was named Best Author in the 2013 Pulp Ark Awards, his first professional writing award. Rick Ruby, a character co-created by Bobby and author Sean Taylor also snagged a Pulp Ark Award for Best New Pulp Character of 2013.
For more information on Bobby Nash please visit him at http://www.bobbynash.com, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorBobbyNash, and http://www.twitter.com/bobbynash, among other places across the web.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve been a published author since 1992, but I didn’t really start producing regularly published material until around 2005. In that time I’ve worked on some pretty cool projects for a few different publishers. You can get the full list of my work at http://www.bobbynash.com, but here are a few of the highlights:

Novels: Evil Ways, Deadly Games!, Earthstrike Agenda, Fantastix
Comic Books: Fuzzy Bunnies From Hell, Demonslayer, Domino Lady vs. The Mummy, Lance Star: Sky Ranger “One Shot”
Short Prose/novellas: A Fistful of Legends, Tales of The Rook, Zombies vs. Robots, The Ruby Files, Lance Star: Sky Ranger, Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars, Domino Lady, Secret Agent X, The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice
Graphic Novels: Yin Yang, I Am Googol: The Great Invasion
Screenplays: Zenoids: “Animal Crackers”, Starship Farragut: “Conspiracy of Innocence”
Media Tie-In: Green Hornet Case Files, Green Hornet Still at Large, Nightbeat

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m always juggling multiple projects at one time.

At the moment, I am working on the first (of many, I hope) Ghost Gal novel for Raven’s Head Press. I’m doing production work on the Operation: Silver Moon graphic novel I wrote so it can go to press this month. I’m also working on a Honey West/Domino Lady novel for Moonstone Books. I also have a screenplay in the works I’m co-writing with a writer friend of mine on, and doing rewites on a short film I wrote that goes before the camera in May. There are other odds and ends that make up my day as well. I co-host the Earth Station One podcast, keep my websites up to date, social media, things like that. There never seems to be a shortage of things to do, which is nice.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
I remember reading and enjoying the Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid. I checked them out from the school library. They were great. The first novel I recall owning was Han Solo’s Revenge. My Mom ordered books from a catalog and I was a big Star Wars fan. I saw it in her ordering form and she bought it for me. I still have it.

What are your three favorite books?
This is a tough one to answer because the answer is always changing. The first three that come to mind today are Airframe by Michael Crichton, Whipping Boy by John Byrne, and DC’s The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. I’ve read them multiple times.

How many books to do you read at any given time?
It varies. Sometimes it’s one at a time, sometimes three. It depends on my mood.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m bouncing between three novels. So Close The Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison, Honey West: This Girl For Hire by G.G. Fickling, and I just started Star Trek: The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
Lose all track of time.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I have re-read a few novels over the years, but only a small number. There’s always something in my to read pile I’ve not read yet.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely, especially when people who share the same interests as I do recommend a book. I’ve discovered many fantastic readers because someone said, “you have to read this.”

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I love to recommend a good read to others, even if it’s not one I wrote. [laughs]

What do you look for in a good book?
I like to be entertained. Tell me a good story and I’m excited. Make me fall in love (or hate) with your characters and I’ll come back for more. What I don’t like is to be bored.

Why do you write?
It’s the only way to get the stories out of my head. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true because the ideas never stop coming. There are more story ideas rattling around in my brain than I can write. I will never have the chance to get to all of them. I love telling and crafting stories and creating characters. It’s fun.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I’d probably be sitting in an office doing something uninteresting.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Ideas come from anywhere. I wish I had a better answer, but the ideas and inspiration come from all around. I will say that deadlines are great motivators.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me that I can persevere and accomplish things with a lot of hard work and dedication. When I first started down this path, it was tough. There were (and still are) many rejections and criticisms. As a writer you are advised to “have a thick skin” but sometimes that is easier said than done. It would have been so easy to give up way back when. Thankfully, I didn’t give up and stuck with it and today I’m being contacted by publishers asking me if I would like to work for them. That’s pretty amazing. I wish younger me could have seen me now.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
It’s weird, but the one I find most often is meeting people who assume I’m rich because of the number of books I’ve worked on. Sadly, published author does not automatically equal wealthy author. I wish it did. I think my life would be a little simpler if that were the case, but it’s not. Far from it, in fact. I’m still chasing that brass ring.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
There are a lot. We’re not all rich. We’re not always drunk or high. That sort of thing. Also, the police never ask me to help them solve crimes.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Right now, it has never been easier to get your work in print. The downside of the that is that it takes a lot more to make your book(s) stand out against the millions of other titles out there. I don’t have the answer for how to rise to the top because, if I did, my books would be selling better than they are [laughs]. There is more to being a writer than writing. You have to market your book(s) and yourself. You have to get out there and meet readers, talk to people, sell it. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time. Writing the novel is only part of the job.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, sure. Poor writing style or clumsy turns of phrase. There is always something I look back on and realize that I can do it better or differently now. That’s not to say it was wrong the first time (although, sometimes…) but as I learn new techniques and develop new skills, how I approach certain things is different. I learn from those mistakes.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
There are so many dream projects. I do enjoy writing media tie-ins and I’ve had fun with the few I’ve been fortunate enough to write for, but there are a few out there I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at eventually. Stargate SG-1 or Stargate: Atlantis would be fun. I pitched a novel to the publisher that holds the license, but never heard back. It would have been fun, I think. I love Star Trek and Star Wars, but I’m not sure I’m the right writer for novels based on those properties. On the comic book side of things, an opportunity to write The Fantastic Four would be incredible. I love those characters. There are more, of course, but those are currently at the top of my list.

How do you deal with your fan base?
I feel fortunate to have a fan base that interacts with me. I answer every email, question, and comment sent to me or left on my website or at conventions. I attend as many conventions/signings/conferences as I can afford to get out and meet readers and creators face to face. I love meeting fans and potential fans of my books.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
Secrets. I’m pretty much an open book. Sometimes I think I share too much. [laughs]

Anything else we should know?
I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to check out one of my books, leave a review, or just say hi. I love what I do and hope to continue doing it. Please feel free to visit me at http://www.bobbynash.com or on social media.

Book Review – Without you by Anthony Rapp

Title: Without You: A memoir of love, loss, and the musical Rent
Author: Anthony Rapp
Format: Paperback
Written: 2006
Published: 2006

I have a gay friend (and really, all of us ladies need to have one good, gay friend) who got me hooked on the musical Rent.  I love Rent.  There’s nothing about it that I hate (okay, except for when Angel dies, and the fact that he looks better in a skirt than I ever could hope to), and really, I mean that.  It surpassed Once as #1 in my list of Musicals to Watch.

Phew.  Now that I’ve gushed… I saw this book on the shelf of a discount bookseller at a book festival here in Nashville and I bought it on the spot, breaking my cardinal rule of only buying books at the festival that I could get signed.

When I got around to reading it (you should see the avalanche that is my TBR pile), I realized there was a lot more going on than just talk of the musical.  Anthony Rapp – if you don’t know rent, you may remember him from Adventures in Babysitting (the horror!) – talks about his family, his career, the men he’s dated, his mother’s cancer (cancer is the suck), and, you know, the musical.

Here’s the thing.  Tonio (as his mother calls him) may be phenomenal as an actor and a singer, but he’s not the best writer.  I couldn’t help but feel like he was holding back a little.  Like… it’s one thing to say “oh, this was sad so I cried,” but its another thing to actually show us the crying.  And I felt like there was talk of crying but no hope for need of a tissue. (Disclaimer: I did cry when his mother died, but my Grandmother died of cancer, so it’s personal.  I was crying for Gramma more than anything.)

I did learn a lot about the musical.  But it was interjected with several other things (sometimes a bit poorly), and that was distracting. Like, one minute he’s talking about the musical, then he’s talking about a boyfriend that may or may not have been in his life, his brother, etc.

I think I would have rather read a memoir about just his private life, or a memoir about just his time on Rent.  (Side note, all the talk is about Broadway, they only talk about the movie version for two pages and its glossed over, since it happens right about the time the book got written. Not saying if that’s good or bad, just letting you know.)

The worst thing is that (probably because this is divided so much) I can name a better book about homosexuality or cancer or friendship or just about anything else that this book touches on.  I love Anthony Rapp, I was just a bit underwhelmed with this.

Bottom line – if you seriously like Rent (and not just the movie version), read it. It’s not the best book, but it’s an entertaining read.  Three out of five pages.

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