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Back from BEA/BookCon

So, anyone who has followed me over the last 10 months knows I live a rather quiet life in the wilderness of northern Michigan. And because of my, oh, colorful past, people still seem to find my life fascinating. Until recently, I never thought of myself, or my life, as interesting. I've always considered myself just a regular guy, albeit one with a few unique quirks and talents. But then people began pointing out how ridiculous and crazy my life actually is. So I began taking a step back to actually see my life from an outside perspective. And I realized that my life really IS crazy as hell! But this trip to New York was next level crazy!!!! For real.

I could go into great detail about every day in NYC, but as an overview the whole trip was, well, a trip! I mean, one day I'm sipping coffee on the back deck of my home in the woods, and the next day I'm walking down 8th Avenue, getting a slice of pizza at the "Famous Famiglia" restaurant, where they took my picture for their wall of fame. I'm hoping I end up next to Sinatra! The cars, the smells, the noise, the people! Talk about sensory overload. But it was all so exciting. I mean, ten months previous I was finishing my 13th year in prison, and suddenly I was in New York City to promote my new novel!

The first two days of the conference (the "BookExpo" part) was a closed attendance, with only industry professionals walking the exhibit floor. Those two days were not about selling books, but rather networking. I had some incredible people come by the booth to chat with me -- a few agents, a couple of producers, and several publishers. I also had some librarians stop by to ask about carrying my book in their library, and bookstore owners/managers who also wanted to talk about buying my book in larger quantities. It was a lot of fun chatting with those people, but I wasn't prepared for what the next two days would bring.

The second two days of the conference (the "BookCon" part) was open to the public. The attendees came from all over the world to walk the large conference floor with the hope that they'd score some great new books and meet their favorite authors. The first morning of that opening day of BookCon, we all were amazed at how many people came early to line up. I mean, they were down the city block, camped out and waiting to get in. When the doors finally opened, it was like a flood. At one point, I couldn't sign and sell books fast enough. I tried to sign every book that was purchased, and most of my fans took pictures with me -- which I loved. Oddly enough, there were MANY females who bought my book and loved talking to me about the Mafia. I imagine that it was the handsome and charming Omnio "King" Falcone that they were so intrigued by. Regardless, the amount of people that were eager to read TO BE A KING and who wanted to hear about my life as I autographed their book was very humbling.

Perhaps the craziest parts for me were those moments of reflection, when I looked around and thought back to this time last year, when I was locked down in a prison cell 22 hours a day, with a murderer for a cellmate. There were indeed a few moments where I felt tears coming on, private moments with myself. I remember stepping outside while everyone was eating dinner. I looked up at all the buildings, at the people, and just felt the tears come on. I'd come so far in less than a year. I thought back to all those moronic corrections officers who looked at me like I was scum, like I was nothing. And now there I was, in New York City, just a few hours earlier at the famous Javits Center, signing books and taking photos with fans, doing interviews, talking to agents and major publishers who were interested in me. I thought back to the countless conversations I had with other inmates while still in prison, about how I said I would get out and blow my books up. Of course, half of them looked at me like I was crazy. The other half just hated on me and talked behind my back, wishing failure upon me. And yet there I stood in NYC, only ten months out, staring up at the lights of Time Square. Throughout the weekend I took hundreds of photos with my fans, each fan proudly holding up my book like a trophy, as if I was some great celebrity. The best part was that I got to share it with my closest loved ones: My wife, Maria, the most amazing woman I have ever met was my rock the whole time. My best friend, Billy Usher, who never gave up on me and always believed in me. I'm glad I even included my friends and fans who follow me on Facebook, and did a couple of radio interviews while there (with the WiseGuyz show and Offensive Talk Radio). It was so fun to share a little bit of my crazy life with so many people!

The five days were exhausting for sure. Being on my feet all day, having to be on my game as I met industry people and fans, took its toll. And the gator skin shoes I wore did my feet no favors - at the end of the five days my feet felt like someone smashed them with a hammer. Nevertheless, I had a blast hanging out with everyone--Larry Mazza, Jamie Mattus, Jimbo Frapp, Billy and our wives. I even met with an agent who wants to pitch my book to HBO fora series, as well as potential reality show about my life to several cable networks. But honestly, it was the fans, the readers who really made my trip. It excites me beyond words to know that people are truly enjoying my work. I love that there are so many people out there reading TO BE A KING. I love that I am taking them on an journey in their mind, using nothing but words. The thought of this is very surreal of me. Thats the only way I can describe it. Surreal. Over and over people come back and tell me I have written "the next Godfather," or that the book MUST be made into a feature film. I'm just glad people like the book. (And me.) For so long I was surrounded by negative people who hated me simply because I dreamed big. Now here I am! Guess I get the last laugh. But then, it's going to be a while before you hear that laugh, because I'm only getting started!!

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