Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Monday, April 28, 2014

When You Have to Dig a Little Deeper...

Writers and artists aren't like the rest of the world.  We're solitary bats of a sort, many of us thriving from dusk to dawn as opposed to the morning-to-dinnertime norm.  In my case, I live both, which is by necessity at this point in my career.  I have a day job and of course, the Blabbermouth review gig.  I'm accustomed to fielding a lot more, but the times have been harsh for the print industry and I, like many other journalists, watched many of my paying gigs go down the drain with canceled publications.  A large percentage of the webbies (in entertainment journalism, anyway) generally want work for free, which does nothing for my budget, alas.  

Nevertheless, twenty album reviews a month when you're a working dad can be considered a healthy enough load of side work, particularly when deadline approaches and you get behind the eight ball as the days dwindle each month due to obligations and life's unexpected curveballs.  When you have a young one to care for, that responsibility alone can present its fair share of challenges to getting work at home completed.  It's never easy to tell a child that you can't play at the moment, nor watch him play his Nintendo D.S. when there's work to be done.  Having already been to the office during the day, it's never easy to justify needing more time to work to make room for your other obligations, since a child is the biggest obligation a person can have in life.  Nor is it easy to concentrate when this presents a small bit of conflict when the child takes his frustrations out on the other parent who has to hold the fort, or when he goes bonkers trying to stay engaged in something or worse, to get attention.  My son, sweet child that he is, has been able to adapt to our pinball machine of a lifestyle, but kids are still kids.

I make a lot of time for my son, since it's a must and before I know it, he'll be stowing himself in his bedroom with a locked door or carousing with his friends as teens must do in order to avoid driving themselves and their folks insane.  I tell myself when it's time to write reviews (usually after the household's in bed) that I'm benefiting my family with the needed extra income.  The "me" time for writing has gotten pocked by the likewise dwindled "work" time for writing.  Priorities, you know.

When I started in music journalism, I felt like I was living the life.  I was "in."  I was constantly at a show, constantly photographing concerts, constantly putting my tape recorder before musicians for interviews.  I had no children at the time, but three different columns on top of freelance assignments, and my wife understood how desperately I wanted to live a writer's life.  I went for it with all guns blazing and my wife kept the saddle warm for me with her compassion.  I slept very little but ran on euphoria.  I'd envied the bigger name writers, DJ's and the magazine editors who were always in the company of the elite, always in the high profile shots partying it up like tag-alongs to royalty.  I've had my fair share of it, too, but to much more modest measures.

I think of these things when I'm forced to stop everything and everyone and bulldoze through my album reviews, as I am this very minute.  I take deadlines bloody serious, so it goes back to mincing sleep, albeit I now have to force "x" amount of hours of rest if I'm to be effective in my day and night work.  I am getting older, thus the body becomes more demanding. 

This month, we went on a long trip and I'm just getting my bod put back right from all of that, since I'd fallen sick for almost a week upon our return last week.  Unfortunately, the month of April has been set with so many tasks and new challenges that I only got started on the twenty album review queue on the 22nd.  Way late, even for me. 

Fortunately, everyone in the household knows the score and as of this morning, I've nailed down thirteen reviews already.  It's gonna take an extra push to knock out the remaining seven, but I've spent my career carrying the reputation of a grinder.  I'll make deadline, no worries.  Keep the java brewing, the television off and Facebook kept to a minimum.  I've made some new friends who I hope to avoid neglecting like the old ones.  A theme throughout April was catching up with family and friends, even if I had to punk out a couple times once I was sidelined from illness.  I'm amazed by all the people I was able to see this month, but now I must burrow in like a fast-fingered mole and push to the finish line for the month.

I have story and script ideas burning at me and I just got my sticky notes for those projects organized into some sense of order where I can attend them after deadline.  I recently entered Top Cow Comics' Talent Hunt and threw my very soul into my entry script.  Every writer says that, I'm sure, but failure was not an option for me.  I studied hard, I gathered immense material from their books, I chanted mantras, I put Sara Pezzini of Witchblade onto my computer desktop and bulletin board.  I threw myself into the comics scene with the same passion as I did music.  I summoned the universe every way I know how.

Well, reality bites, I didn't get picked.  The news threw me off for a few hours, but instead of dwelling on it, I got straight to work on those reviews.  That's how you deal with adversity.  To the good, I've recently made some friends in the industry as a result of my enthusiasm for comics.  That's a bigger win in the long run.  I never have time to mull over failure since life's always at a grind and as far as I'm concerned, I didn't fail.  I have my family, I have my work, I have a better grasp on how to write a comics script and I have new friends in the comics field to get to know.  I appreciate their attention and willingness to converse.  That's a huge win.

Thus I turn the page, like Bob Seger advises.  Seven more reviews.  I've got this.  I'm a pro.  I'm not even sweating it, even when I must pause now, get my son ready for school and dropped off, then to the office to kick off a new work week.  I'll be back at this spot later tonight, doing what I love and I'll dig just a little deeper once the kiddo's been played with, fed and tucked in for the night.  I wonder which Berenstain Bears book he's gonna have me read tonight...

                       Listenin' to:  Arch Enemy - War Eternal

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