Friday, January 8, 2010

Deus ex New Year

If only because it was the year I published Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan, 2009 was pretty amazing. But after you get over how cool it is to think that you published a book and the excitement of holding a physical copy of it in your hand, there is the suddenly daunting task of somehow getting the word out about said book. Self-promotion is decidedly not in my comfort zone, but through necessity and the help and encouragement of Tracy and John, I stepped outside of it and surprised myself with how much fun I had!

My local comic shop, JC Comics & Cards, stepped up and hosted me for my very first in-store book signing in April, and, despite competing with a gorgeous day outside, it was a success! From there I promoted the book at a bunch of regional comic book conventions and did an in-store signing on Free Comic Book Day at Bill’s Books and More.

Learning to write a press release and sending copies of the book to local newspapers resulted in write-ups in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon Journal, and interviews with Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources’ Tim O’Shea and Elliott Serrano of the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye Geek to Me blog, and a great review and interview on Wired Magazine’s GeekDad blog.

The year ended with two well-received author visits. The first came out of nowhere when my old friend Mark, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, asked me if I’d like to be a part of the Fall for the Book Festival. What an amazing experience that was! My prepared reading in front of an audience of 50 or so was followed by a great question and answer session.

I was able to get copies of Deus ex Comica in virtually all branches of the Akron-Summit County Public Library, which led to my other author visit, this one at the Fairlawn-Bath Branch of the library. Although attendance was lighter than the GMU festival (somewhere around 20 attendees), it was just as fun and, again, the conversation with the audience afterward was wonderful.

Amid all this, I was fortunate enough to give copies of the book to both Stan Lee and Neil Gaiman, and share Deus ex Comica with friends and influences at the Chicago Comic-Con.

So now I feel like I sort of have a game plan. Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself. And as 2009 wound down, I set out to line up as many appearances as I could to start off the New Year. My hope is to average one book-related appearance per month in 2010, and while I’m still working on some dates and opportunities, I’m thrilled to so far have seven appearances confirmed between now and mid-July!

The first Sunday in February I’ll be promoting the book at the Akron-Canton Con (John will be there too, selling copies of Collect All 21!). The following Saturday, February 13, John and I will both be at The Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson for a local authors event, sharing some prepared readings from our books, chatting with customers, and signing books.

March and April will find me doing author visits at the Northwest Akron (March 04) and the Nordonia Hills (April 29) branches of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. I’ll be following that up by helping Comic Heaven celebrate Free Comic Book Day on May 01 with an in-store signing event at their Willoughby store.

The end of June brings another Akron-Canton Con (June 27) and then two weeks later I’ll be speaking at the Firestone Park branch of the library.

I have more book promotion opportunities on the horizon as well, but they aren’t firm enough to share just yet. Some are nearly finalized and some are still just ideas I’m exploring. As soon as things do finalize, I’ll be sure to post them. I hope, if you’re able, you’ll come out, say “hello,” and support a local writer!

  • February 07, 10am-4pm: Akron-Canton Con (with Collect All 21! author John Booth), Chapparells Community Center, 2418 S. Arlington Road, Akron
  • February 13, 3pm-5pm: The Learned Owl Book Shop (with Collect All 21! author John Booth), 204 N. Main Street, Hudson (330.653.2252)
  • March 04, 6.30pm-7.30pm: Northwest Akron Branch (ASCPL), 1720 Shatto Avenue, Akron (330.836.1081)
  • April 29, 7pm-8pm: Nordonia Hills Branch (ASCPL), 9458 Old Eight Road, Northfield (330.467.8595)
  • May 01 (Free Comic Book Day!), TBD: Comic Heaven, 4847 Robinhood, Willoughby (440.942.6960)
  • June 27, 10am-4pm: Akron-Canton Con, Chapparells Community Center, 2418 S. Arlington Road, Akron
  • July 10, 2pm-3pm: Firestone Park Branch (ASCPL), 1486 Aster Avenue, Akron (330.724.2126)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holiday Break 1989, Part 2: Nothing Quite Like the Feel of Something New

Twenty years ago I was on holiday break from Bowling Green State University. There are two things that stand out about those few weeks I was home. First was the debut of The Simpsons, and the other was the New Year’s Eve party at John’s house a few weeks later...
Weeks after the debut of The Simpsons, and just days after seeing Nine Inch Nails live for the first time at the Phantasy Theater, I rang in 1990 at John’s parents’ house with a group of friends that ranged from years old connections to brand new relationships. (Maria wasn’t in attendance this night. Although we were together from that Christmas break through much of that next spring semester back at BG, we never officially dated, and I don’t think she ever actually broke up with her boyfriend.)

Although I contest the clarity of John’s chronology, I fully corroborate the importance of that night and Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine.

(To be clear, I did have an advanced copy of PHM by way of the Akron record store I worked at over summers and on breaks home from college, but by the time December 31, 1989, rolled around, PHM had been officially released and available for a couple of months. Long before that New Year’s Eve, I had the CD and John, by virtue of being not only my best high school friend but also my college roommate, had heard the album many, many times.)

This amazing confluence of old and new friends, alcohol, and music was somehow significant. It was a mingling of high school and college, Bizarre Love Triangles, and the inherent hyper-dramatic sense of trailing childhood’s end. And PHM was the soundtrack to my life at the time. It was, as John put it, “a damn dark raging album,” but more than that it captured the confusion and pain and drama and sex and fun of coming of age. No album will ever be as meaningful to me as PHM was when I was on the cusp of my twenties.

A few years ago, in a review of the Nine Inch Nails "Live: With Teeth" tour I did for Field’s Edge (a neutered version of the review also ran at PopMatters), I described PHM as “a perfect storm: The fury and passion behind the lyrics mixed with a completely different sound that bled into my world; I found it at a time when I was also discovering new sides of myself. The album came along at just the right time to be the single most influential collection of songs in my life before or since.”

At the time, The Cure’s Disintegration was epic, and Matt Johnson’s poetry on The The’s Mind Bomb was incredible, but what Trent Reznor captured in those ten songs on PHM was nothing short of monumental to a Midwest punk finding his way in the larger world. It was more than I could stand to not share it with everyone in my circle of friends – old and new, regardless of our personal history or musical tastes, I played this album for every last person I came in contact with for probably a year straight.

(The closest any other album has ever come to being as fundamentally meaningful to a period in my life is U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Released just after my 30th birthday at the end of 2000, this collection of songs became the soundtrack to our return to Ohio after ten years away, our trip to Paris, the birth of our son, our friendship with Jeff and Anna, our post-9/11 trip to New York City in December 2001, and on and on. But it was different, in that this was a collective soundtrack for experiences Tracy and I shared. And if you’re lucky, your thirties inhabit a very different worldview from that of your 19-year-old self.)

Much of that night two decades ago is fuzzy, and a lot of what I can remember is best left unsaid, but there was something about that moment when we shared Pretty Hate Machine, something of consequence. And sharing that collection of songs with our wider spheres of influence carried weight. A weight worth remembering 20 years later.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday Break 1989, Part 1: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

Twenty years ago I was on holiday break from Bowling Green State University. There are two things that stand out about those few weeks I was home, the first being the debut of The Simpsons in their Christmas special, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” in December 1989...

The Fox network was only a few years old in ’89. The Tracey Ullman Show and Married... with Children were the originals, along with 21 Jump Street, that I remember watching, mostly in college, on John’s little TV we had in the dorm room we shared.

That fall semester at BG, I took a music appreciation class of some kind (it’s a little fuzzy at this point) in the Moore Musical Arts Center. The first day of class, this cute girl and I chatted briefly and began a classroom friendship, but neither pursued anything beyond that until the end of the semester rolled around. Through small talk in class, we realized we were both from Northeast Ohio. She went to Central Catholic and grew up right in the geographic center of my high school social world. We decided to get together while home for the holidays.

I was at the peak of my punk phase at the time... my hair dyed jet black or blue-black or maroon or purple depending on the week, eyeliner, black nail polish and lipstick, my ears pierced a half-dozen times. She had a simple, girl-next-door beauty. And a boyfriend. Despite my appearance and her ties, her parents and I got along well-enough, and Maria and I spent a large part of those weeks home together. There were many late nights getting to know each other while we drank bottomless cups of coffee and I chain-smoked Marlboro Lights in a booth at the Denny’s on Everhard Road, and hanging out at her parents’ house.

The Jesus and Mary Chain album Automatic – released just a few months earlier – is forever linked to her and the time we spent together (it seems we listened to it constantly), and so is that first episode of The Simpsons, because I watched it with her at her parents’ house.
Again, details are a bit fuzzy, but I remember her parents were out that night and that she was supposed to go out with her boyfriend, but we hung out together and, at my insistence, watched The Simpsons Christmas Special.

It could have been during the first showing of it on Sunday, December 17, but for a few reasons I tend to think it was the encore performance the following Saturday night that I watched with Maria: First, I don’t know why her parents would have been out on a Sunday night. Second, I’m pretty sure I viewed the very first broadcast of “Roasting” with my buddies because I rememb
er watching the Married... with Children Christmas Special with Sam Kinison as Al Bundy’s guardian angel, which aired immediately after The Simpsons debut, with one or more of them. Third, it makes sense that I would have seen the original airing and then insisted on watching it again with Maria to share it with her.

There’s probably a good chance that later that night Maria went out with her boyfriend and I met up with my buddies, but that first taste of a larger Simpsons world, something sustainable beyond a one-minute bumper, is forever tied to a bitter cold Northeast Ohio night in North Canton. Somewhere around the eighth or ninth season I stopped watching The Simpsons regularly, and within a year or so of that stopped watching it altogether, but the nostalgi
a of that first special and the rose-colored memories associated with that period in my life were more than enough to get me to buy that Season One set when it was released on DVD. And every now and again I pop those discs in the player and ride the wayback machine to 1989.