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Monday, May 30, 2016

Our Own Way

My first book, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007, came out in the late summer/early fall of 2008. Only two days ago, I found a copy of it in a bookstore. Granted, the store was Half Price Books, which sells mostly used books, but still, to see something I wrote be available for someone to discover and read was a wonderful sight. I had heard of copies available in stores here and there throughout the country. Now I had visual proof.

I didn't wonder if someone bought the book, hated it, and sold it. Since Half Price Books encourages their customers to sell back books they buy there and buy more, I figured that was the case.

Back when it was published, I paid a few hundred dollars to make the book listed as "returnable." The hope was, more bookstores would carry a returnable book. I never saw it in a bookstore as a new item. Never at an indie store or a Half Price Books. Barnes & Noble stores do not have large sections for music books, so I don't blame them for keeping their selections mainly with the biggest publishers.

I knew the book continued to sell over the years, and not just because I would look at the small quarterly royalty statements when I prepared my taxes. People would find me on social media and share a pic of their copy with me. I'd be asked to be on podcasts and we'd talk about Post and When We Were the Kids. No matter how small the numbers were, I was happy to see people reading what I had to say.

I can't help but kick in with more writer advice here. If your aim is to become a famous writer and never work a "straight" job ever again, I would not recommend writing a nonfiction book about a subgenre of music. That said, if you have a story/angle on a topic you want to tell that hasn't been done before, then seriously consider writing it. Don't think about getting famous or making some (or any) money. If you have a story to tell, then write it. Don't wait for someone to consider yourself a writer. Start writing.

Recently, I interviewed a best-selling author for one of the publications I write for. A handful of years ago, his fourth novel quickly caught a lot of buzz when a very famous author praised it and the movie rights sold in the millions. I asked him what his life was really like when his book became a best-seller. All that really changed was that he could afford to send his children to college, his wife didn't have to work to help financially support the family, and he focused on writing two more books. And he bought a summer house in the north east. But his day-to-day life didn't drastically change in terms of raising his children and being the best father and husband he can be. He had a happy life before the book sold like crazy, and he isn't banking on the royalties from his books for the rest of his life.

This author's books sell more in an hour than any of mine have ever sold, but I believe I came to an understanding in why people write books. It's not really for financial gain; it's the desire to tell a story, whether it's fiction or nonfiction. If I had never written my first book, I never would have started a blog. I probably would have not written for the publications I've written for. And I'm not sure I would have ever met Hope if it weren't for this blog.

Deep down, when I wrote my first book, I wished I would be interviewed for my perspective on post-hardcore/emo someday. That has happened quite a bit in the past seven years, and I'm happy that people believe in my research and my take on the genre. It's not for fame; it's to set the record straight.

Seeing my book in a store reminded me of this important idea as a writer (or really, anyone with creative drives): Do not put a time limit on success or lack of success. If you put everything into a six-month, five-year, or ten-year plan, you're prepping yourself for life going the way you think it's supposed to go rather than the way it will go. Enjoy the ride and the small victories. If you're lucky to have a book on the NY Times Bestseller List or make your primary income from writing, then great. But don't think not reaching those lofty heights means you're a failure. If you want to express yourself for the rest of your life, express it without thinking of any attention coming from it. Just express yourself.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Meet Your Heroes

When it comes to wanting to meet people you admire, occasionally you get countered by these four words, "Never meet your heroes." Meaning, if you hold someone in high regards, you'll be disappointed if that person acts in a non-friendly way. And all those years of looking up to that person will vanish like tears in rain.

While I can understand that train of thought, I must stress these three words: MEET YOUR HEROES.

Yes, I have had unpleasant interactions with people I admire, whether through online, on the phone, or in person. But that number is incredibly small compared to the people that have been generous and kind with their time. With the ones who have been pricks, chances are very good I was not the only person he or she was a prick to. I prefer to not take things personally, focusing on the battle everyone has with themselves that has nothing to do with you.

Recently, I went to Texas Frightmare Weekend with Hope. She loves this gathering of horror fans and even interviewed its founder on her podcast. Without a doubt, her enthusiasm for it made me feel more comfortable at the thought of going to an event like this. We saw lots of people we've only seen in movies, like Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, and Adrienne King, from a distance. But if there was one person I would have liked to have met, it was George Romero.

Romero has made movies I have seen many times and I've always enjoyed what he has to say in interviews. Sure, he's made some of the best zombie movies of all time, but other movies of his, like The Crazies and Martin, had a pretty big impact on me, too. The price to get an autograph and picture with him was a little high to me at first, but with a line that was manageable (and moving at a steady pace), I figured, go for it.

Hope and I stood for about 30 minutes, talking to other people in line with anticipation. The rules were simple: pay in cash and there are no personalizations with your autograph. I picked an 8x10 for him to sign, paid my money, said hello, and shook his hand. I showed him the shirt I had on, which featured a riff on the iconic Dawn of the Dead poster with the words "Fuck Cancer" replacing "Dawn of the Dead." I asked if he had ever seen this shirt before and he laughed. He said he had not. He was jovial and friendly about it. Then I sat next to him and Hope took a couple of pics of us.

Coming away from the interaction, I'm happy I went through with it. Romero is 76 and still doing conventions, but like a lot of things in life, we shouldn't think that will always be the case. I'm glad I had the experience firsthand and have the documentation to prove it.

Why I suggest you meet your heroes comes from something Bruce Campbell wrote in his autobiography, If Chins Could Kill. No matter how many times people have told him they love his movies, he always appreciates when people take the time and say something nice to him. Expressing a nice sentiment goes a long way, no matter who you are.

Given how curious I am with musicians, filmmakers, and writers of all walks of life, I want to meet the ones I admire. If I have the chance to say something nice about how much that person's work has meant to me, then I want to take that chance.

And even with the few I've had not-so-pleasant experiences with, my appreciation of their work has not dwindled. I'd be a little hesitant to talk to that person again, though. If I never took the chance, how would I know what it would be like? I'd rather know than speculate.