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[Feature Friday] Author Michael Sean Comerford on Taking the Unconventional Path to Success - The ROI Online Podcast Ep. 54

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On this episode of the ROI Online Podcast, Steve talks with author Michael Sean Comerford about his experience working in 10 Carnivals in 10 states and how it shaped his well-reviewed book American Oz.

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Michael Sean Comerford worked 30 years as an award-winning journalist. Now, he’s a blogger, author, and CEO of Comerford Publishing LLC. During his time hitchhiking around the world working in various carnivals, he learned how to be the most entertaining character around with the longest lines.

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His latest book tells the story of the working poor as they look for love and meaning in their lives. He self-published it because he couldn’t find a publisher who wanted to embrace the whole vision of his story. Plus, he already had a group of people following his blog, so he knew he could market and sell the book, and he wasn’t afraid to start his own publishing business. 

Michael and Steve discuss:

  • His experience living in 10 different states on less than minimum wage away from his daughter for extended periods of time
  • Why Michael was wrong to think he was a journalist studying the lives of carnies and was instead became part of the story himself
  • The huge motivation carnival workers have for the kids, how they want to bring joy to people’s lives, and how stereotypes don’t do them justice
  • How carnivals help you escape reality into a fantasy world where anything is possible 
  • Writing multiple drafts of a story and turning rejection into a better story
  • Figuring out how to self-publish, and how it makes you more money in the long run 


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Also available wherever else you get your podcasts.


You can learn more about Michael here:
https://www.michaelseancomerford.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-sean-comerford/
www.EyesLikeCarnivals.com 

Read the books mentioned in this podcast:
Americal Oz by Michael Sean Comerford
On the Road by Jack Kerouac



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Michael Sean Comerford: 

Okay, everybody, I say Up, up,

Steve Brown: 

up, and

Michael Sean Comerford: 

all of a sudden, they would all be going up and it would look like I am ordering the machine to go up. And I'm clearly the only person there. And then I would say no way with you. And then with going wide circles and circles, and the kids start screaming, and kids would come back again and again and say, How did you do that? Mr. How would you do that? And then parents would come over and they would say, you got to get a load of this guy. He is he's going nuts. And so I did have a I had a show where I was so energetic. And the carnies and I got the idea afterwards, because one of the county said, Oh, my God, I've been in karting since Carney since I was 11 years old, I wanted to be a carny, it was 11. I ran away at 14. And he says, I've been a carny that long. And I've never seen anyone with that kind of energy. And I go, Well, that's what I'm going to be. I mean, every kind of will I go to I'm going to be more energetic than anybody. And I'm going to have a show like no one's else Show.

Steve Brown: 

I'm in show business. Hi, everybody. Welcome to the ROI online podcast where we believe you. The courageous entrepreneurs of our day, are the invisible heroes of our economy. You not only improve our world with your ideas, your grit and your passion, but you make our world better. I'm Steve Brown. And this is a place where we have great conversations with winners just like you while we laugh and learn together. Michael Shawn Comerford, welcome to the ROI online podcast.

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Thank you so much.

Steve Brown: 

So I ran across to you, you have this, this very interesting book, American Oz, but you're an immersion journalist. And you've had some, some experiences in your lifetime that are very interesting. I, it seems like you've been a writer, and you're a former award winning journalist in Chicago, New York, Budapest, Moscow, you've biked across America several times, you've hitchhiked across America, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, ridden freight trains. You've studied Buddhism and the Himalayas. I thought this was kind of interesting how I don't know what goes through someone's mind to go, I think I'm gonna go to Ireland and win a boxing championship. But you travel the world, you live in Chicago, you got to speak American eyes. And so I wanted to explore and learn about that.

Michael Sean Comerford: 

All right, it's a it's a, it's a, it's an Amazon number one bestseller. It's self published. And there definitely is a story behind this story. So I'm looking forward to it.

Steve Brown: 

Well, let's have what what comes across someone where you decide, you know what, I'm going to start traveling and writing what what's going on in your life at this time that you just you just pack up and become nomadic?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Well, I was 30, some years a journalist and the journalism business, especially in my field, which was newspapers was drying up. And so I thought, well, let's go write books. And I had long thought about this. These traveling carnivals because I thought these people were traveling seekers, I thought that they were great stories to be told on the road. And I thought, well, go tell their stories. And then look at America tell I originally thought I'll be in one Carnival all year, and I'll be in the Silicon Valley. I'll cover the silicon chasm, which is the difference between the richest people in america, which is the Silicon Valley, and, and their high number of homeless and I thought, this is income inequality. So it's, I know, I can do this. You know, I bet this is going to be a very compelling story. And it didn't end up anything like that.

Steve Brown: 

Yeah. You know, oftentimes, people start businesses and the people that listen to this podcast, they're, they're small business owners, they're marketing directors. They're folks that really, they're interested in interesting stories, but they're looking for relationships, and these disconnected domains that help them gain insights that improve the way they approach the world and what they do. And so I think often that we start off on this journey, and we think we're going to start a business and we're going to do this type of service or this type of product, but later on, we find that it's really evolved or changed. Tell us a little bit about that and your experience.

Michael Sean Comerford: 

So I went to a So there's a book, there's a story side, and then there's the business side. And in the salary side, I'll get first, which is, I went to work for a professional wrestler who fought on the same bill with Hulk Hogan at the cow Palace in San Francisco. And he said, Well come on out here. We all have blogs out here. You guys from Chicago, you think that's unique? You know, come on out here blog if you like, but I want I need some workers here on my carnival. And I went out there and he goes, Well, I didn't quite realize that you were a real writer, man, and you're fired. And you have a stupid idea. You're your stupid idea is you're going to work for a carnival, but no Carnival owner is going to have a writer on their staff. He says I work for Vince McMahon. He says he had writers but he owned them. And they wrote what he wanted. And if I can't control you, all my risk is downside. And so you're fired. And plus, it's stupid, because in some of the big carnivals, half the staff is Mexican, you don't speak Spanish, you're not gonna get to know half the staff and you'll be fired the second day, you know, that you won't be hired. And so I looked at him and I realized that he was giving me a gift, which was, I'm not going to stay at one carnival. I'm going to work in 10 carnivals I aimed at 12. But I worked in 10 carnivals in 10 states. And then I went down to Mexico to get the Mexican side. And I spoke to the ones who spoke English. And, and so the whole thing evolved from there. And so it started one way, and it ended up completely different. And I ended up working in California, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. And in Florida, I was in a freak show, but they didn't let me on stage because they didn't see the inner freak in me. And by the way, the name of the book, we haven't gotten around to that yet. And I hope that people see this. And they get a lot of tips about what my experience was in marketing. But I would be remiss if I didn't market my book during this interview in a movie. It's called American eyes. And it's a I partly named it that because it's pulling back the curtain on a whole different side of the world and kind of an alternate reality that's traveling from town to town. And it's subtitled an astonishing year inside traveling carnivals at state fairs and festivals, hitchhiking from California to New York, Alaska to Mexico. And the reason for the hitchhiking was, I had to live on Carnival wages. And I wasn't going to go coast to coast. Flying. So I just stuck out my thumb. And so some there's hitchhiking stories and Carnival stories, and a lot of themes about immigration and, and the working class, the working poor, cast, the American caste system, family separation, and it's a it's a tremendous book can be as I said to you in the pre interview that it can be read on both levels on it, very great journey story, a road story on the road. And, but it also can be read from an issues orient, from an insurance issues point of view. So one of the reviewers today said you fleshed out the humanity of these people and, and that's what I wanted to do. Well, so that is the book side that ended a completely different.

Steve Brown: 

Well, let's, let's talk about that. Before you began this, what was your impression? What do you think our general impression is of the carny life?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Well, I think and I know, because I tried to get artists to do a cover. And here's my cover. It's quite brilliant. Yeah, and yeah, and but all of them came up with pictures of Carnival people in them and they were homeless, smoking alcoholic old men. And and that's not what they are there were there were that but their families, their mothers, their fathers, their kids. So these people grow up in carnivals they're generations of them and and they spend their whole year on them and they're veterans of wars. One One woman was I knew there was a rack war bomb specialist. She went up and D activated bombs in Iraq and and and I met artists and and all sorts of incredibly interesting people. So I was I wanted to blow part the stereotype of these criminals that might be hiding out that may be dangerous people may be drug addicted. And, but really what they are, are the working poor. And they are looking for love and meaning in their lives, as we all are. And that's, that's the main point. And that I got around to By the way, I didn't go out to tell that story. I thought it was income inequality, but I became it became about the quality of the human experience.

Steve Brown: 

So let's talk about your transformation. Obviously, in a story like this, we experienced a transformation. Yes. Tell us a little bit about how you were before and how you were after?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Well, I went in as a professional, I think, I want it to be an emerging journalist that goes in and reports and everybody else, and what they say and what they do, and, and so forth. And at one point in Santa Monica, this was my first state in California. I told the boss that I was leaving, and he told the whole crew at our church meeting on a Sunday. And he says everyone, cowboy, and that's because this is the hat I wore on the trip. He says cowboys leaving us and we're all going to miss him. And and then all of a sudden, the Mexicans started throwing their hats in the air and yelling out pug come home, which is Irish for kiss might kiss my butt. And, and I taught them there that on St. Patrick's Day, and and they were saying yelling that and then the the American carnies were cheering also, and all of a sudden, it was a real, it was a real pep rally. And so I realized that that second that I had been really wrong all along that I wasn't really a journalist here I was part of the story. And so what, whatever I feel if I feel discriminated against, or if I feel lonely, or separated from my daughter, who at the time was seven years old, or if I feel underpaid, underappreciated, overworked, that's how they feel. And so I became part of the story. And that enabled the book to have an arc, which was I gradually became more and more of a carnival person, by the end and and I saw what I hadn't seen at the beginning, which was their humanity. And I came up with all those ideas about how how we are all more alike than we know. We're all connected more ways than we know. Yeah. And so when I don't kernville people are worthy of our attention. Their stories matter, because they are us. And we are, we are all living in stories. And there's moves. All these ideas came to me at the end, because I was I was learning.

Steve Brown: 

So you have this experience in Santa Monica and you. You hitchhiked to the next location. Yeah, Robbie was going to your mind. Was this a one off? And then you experienced this camaraderie? Again?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Yeah, when I left, New Jersey in New York. I did so because my long it's this part of the story. My daughter turned eight. And her grandmother said, Well, she is she's missing you, Mike. And I go, Well, I'm gonna hitchhike back to Chicago, and be there for her birthday. And she's right here in the room, actually. And she, so I told them, I'm leaving. And, and there again, they they all were stunned. And because here's another thing that you wouldn't know is that if you are leaving a carnival you are making, let's say you are making, let's say 42, you're working at least 60 hours a week. But sometimes, if you're living in Carnival, you're never off. And so you're making less than minimum wage, you would say, Well, what kind of a job is that? And who would want a job like that? I mean, I'm making almost nothing. And, and yet, when you leave a carnival, every single time all 10 carnivals I left said I am sorry, you're going back to a soccer job where you had to do this. This is really terrible. I really wish that everyone in Chicago it was heart wrenching. That mean the boss was angry at me. He goes, man, you were family. And he goes, how can you do this? And they're shocked and I'm going well, you know, you don't pay us. You overwork us. But it's a lifestyle and They believe it's showbusiness. It's addicting. And they believe they're living the best life. So they see themselves in a way as separate from, from the traditional lifestyle that most of us live in on. Yeah, they're I mean, one reviewer, and I'm learning a lot about the book from reviewers, American eyes, everybody is that they're living on the edge of the American dream. And they're living on the edges of society, they're coming to your town for three days, they're setting up rides, they're setting up fantasies all over the place. That's not really that roller coaster really isn't going to kill you. But you're going to feel like it. You know, this isn't really a scary house, but it's going to feel scary. And, and then they're going to spend all night long, because that's what a tear down is. It's actually got a name a slow, and they'll work all night long to tear that thing down. And in the morning, it disappears from the, from the mall lot. And for the open lap down the street, or from the State Fair, and the State Fair, that's an overnight tear down. And, and you just disappear. And the and so they're in the middle of your community, they're part of your community, every year, they come back to the same place, but they're not part of your community. They're on the edges. And

Steve Brown: 

so, so help us understand what their perspective of all these people that parade through for those three days when they come in, what's your perspective of the unenlightened part of the world? If they see themselves separate? Or like when they're disappointed, you're leaving, they're disappointed because they thought you were becoming a part of this enlightened community that had bonded and these Yeah, these better relationships, I guess, right? family,

Michael Sean Comerford: 

and, but also, there, you know, I'm over generalizing but, but I would say one of the compelling things I found too, was motivation. You know, you're trying to get inside people's heads. This isn't journalism anymore. This is something else. And I'm not listening just to what they say. And person after person, especially ride Jackie's, which are people who run rides. They were saying, I do this for the kids. And one woman said, I didn't have children. I do this for kids all the time. And she goes, if they don't win my game, I pay for it out of my own pocket. And I go, you can't afford that. goldfish, lady. That was her nickname. You can't afford that. You can't afford guests isn't the next this is spring. You can't afford gas than the next place. Barely. And she goes, but I do it for my babies. I do it for them. And I go, wow. And I heard that from, you know, stereotypical old carnies, who said, yeah, it's all about the kids. And so there was a huge motivation about the kids. But then there were those giant T's who ran the games who thought well, these guys are marks and I need to make a living. And, and so some of those guys were borderline pirates. I I have a passage in one of the books where I was in actually in San Mateo, where a homeless man came on. He was citing the Bible about Jesus who came to the temple and banished all the merchants in the temple of any change. And, and he said that we were the merchants and that was the temple. And and I was going Holy crap, is he going to come back with a whip like Jesus did and when I saw that, I thought to myself, well, don't with me, I'm just a ride jockey with join tees, they're the thieves. And, but you know, even them are there even they are very aware that their job is giving joy to others, and PT Barnum put it nicely and he didn't make it up. But and I it's in my book, too, but the noblest start is to the is the art of bringing joy to other people's lives. And they do that. And as I said, also earlier is that it during this time of COVID, when we're all being separated, and we're, you know, going into winter, now it's going to be even worse. Or the mental health crisis is being aggravated, suicides are going up, mental illness is being aggravated, calls to help lines are going way up. And these are the people that help with that communal joy is part of what is part of our release and our feeling of belonging, and they bring that and they should be considered essential workers, and instead of being looked down on they there should be in the future when you make a carny joke. And I know you don't make any carny jokes, but, but when you're making a carny analogy, they won't make any sense and I want to bring up this one. Really quickly is that recently Joe Biden made a lot of news in the carnival community, because he could he compared to Trump. Now Obama has compared Trump to a Barker, carnival barker. But he compared Trump to a carnival worker, using a shell game it comes every year. And all over the trade publications, Carnival, people were writing in online saying how angry they were about the, the, the analogy, because he didn't say Mexican carny worker, because if he did, if he did, he'd be canceled, because everyone would go, Hey, you're anti Mexican, right? He didn't say, a crooked guy comes to town. He said Carnival worker, and we look, you know, I hope after reading my book, that you would say there should be a day when that kind of analogy would make no sense. You would say, Wait, it would be the same as saying a crooked priest came to town with a shell game, you know? No, and and so I don't know if that'll ever happen. But I do shoot down these stereotypes. And, and, and I and I saw the value in the beauty and what they do and their motivations. In a lot of cases were terrific. But like I say, the joint T's did call you on marks and mean, I'm a mark now. And and if you were with it, which is a phrase if you were with it, which is means that you travel with a carnival, you are one kind of person and if you weren't, you're you're potentially dangerous to them because there's a history and carnivals of townies attacking Carnival people. And, you know, religious carnies thought that they were full of sin and, and black arts and things like that. So there's that's the whole history of that. And, and so,

Steve Brown: 

you know, the Why do you? So, in the movies? This topic, the carnival topic is often in movies. And it's very interesting. And it makes for a great story, right? But yet society includes it. It's a part of our lives as Americans and even in Europe and other places. Why is it that this is needed? Why is this a part of our lives? What's going on in our stories?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Ah, well, I'm not sure what that but I will say that there is a thing called the dark carnival. And that's a kind of a theme. And Stephen King has explored it. And that's the something wicked this way comes as a classic by Ray Bradbury. And it's about magic, murder. juggalos and the Insane Clown Posse have a dark Carnival origin story. And so there's nothing wrong with that, I mean, carnivals can, they're, they are calculated to be chaotic, and to steer you in certain ways. And, and chaos is scary. And so you can get overwhelmed. It's both they're supposed to overwhelm the senses. And, and so, you know, I have no problem with you know, people feeling that this, you know, enjoying good stories about dark carnivals. But, you know, one of the things is I've recently been approached to help write about, there's a new movie with Tom Hanks coming out about Colonel Parker, who started out in carnivals. And, and Elvis plays a carnival worker in several of his movies. And I think in part because of it, you know, Colonel Parker thought they were interesting. But uh, so Carnival workers weren't always looked down on this badly, but, you know, they are American, by the way. You mentioned Europe. In 1893, there was a World's Fair in Chicago was the biggest in history. And it was amazing. They call it the whites book. A recent book was a few years ago, was written about it the devil in the White City. It was a White City in the middle of a kind of a polluted Chicago after the Chicago Fire and they had a midway and the first Ferris wheel. And they had sideshows up and down the Midway. And that and lighting was just coming around electric lighting, outdoor electric lighting. And so technology was booming. There was a pandemic, by the way, the 1893 pandemic, and the way a lot of ways a lot like these times where we have booming technology, and a pandemic, and an economic crisis. All that was happening at that time, and some Wildcat entrepreneurs said, you know, we can put together a traveling show that combines the best ideas of 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. And let's go town to town. And so traveling carnivals are an American institution, they have them and they have them in Europe to some extent. But they came from here that traveling shows are one thing. But this was a combining of traveling shows, with lighting with travel with sideshows with rides. And the big thing being rides and circuses had animals. And so there you go. And and like I say, that, I think we can come back the carnival people can come back, but I hope they do. And I hope this pandemic reaffirms this in people's minds, that these people are here to man, you know, hope you have fun, and you need them. You know, like you need positive experiences in your life. I

Steve Brown: 

want to pause here just for a moment and talk to you about a program that we have just released called ROI quickstart Academy for authors. Every day, I talk to business owners just like you who struggle with quickly getting their fundamentals in place, we want to create a great foundation, and we want to grow our business. But the things that are in our way, our lack of knowledge about the specifics, we should put in place, what kind of technology what kind of messaging and what kind of campaigns and that problem exists for authors as well. And we just chill so good with authors because, well, I'm an author, and I understand everything that you struggle with, you have a great idea you have a great book, but what do you want to do, you want to get your book in front of more people, you want to make it easy for them to find you learn how they can schedule a time to talk with you hire you for a conference, or maybe sign up for the services that your book promotes. So what is the Quickstart Academy for authors? Imagine working with a small group of like minded authors, and the experts from the ROI quickstart team, it's a great way to get your messaging clear to be confident with the technology in your marketing automation, and how to run a strategic campaign to get you more of what you want from the investment of your book. To learn more about the Quickstart Academy for authors, you can visit ROI online.com or click in the link in the show notes below. And now back to this episode. Well, I've worked at some county fairs and you know, and I, you really see, like families, they really do look forward to these events, they will come and spend their whole week's paycheck with their kids. I mean, even the parents get into it as much as the kids and it's, it is fascinating to observe. But but it's like it's such a stressful environment with all the the noises and and things that are vying for your attention. How? How does how does it become such a family atmosphere that you can you can thrive or or bond in such a stressful environment that's always in chaos and moving moving. You're never you're never anchored?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

You know? I don't know that. I mean, I I know the kids love it. They love the chaos of it. I mean, they run from ride to ride. I ran the carousel for a while if you open those gates up, they would run like greyhounds from the gate to the carousel. What's it What is it about the carousel it moves really slowly. But you know, they pretend the animals are the pretend the horses are real animals and they they just love it and and and then they go for the sugar sugary candies that are all horrible for you. And the adults going for the deep fried foods and, and they and you know it's full of choice it. It is overwhelming to some people and to others. It is a break from the boring boredom of life. This is excitement. Most of life is boring. And it's pretty much going to end the way you think it's going to end. But something new and something surprising might be around the corner. So and I think that is part of the allure of it is that you get out of the normal life of doldrums. And whatever your problems are and you escape into a fantasy world and in for a while you're inside of a dream like us

Steve Brown: 

in America. So other than the camaraderie and the family aspect of A group of people that work together in such a Yeah, such a trying, trying lifestyle, and yet they bond and they really, they grow from that. And they what was another shocking revelation for you that you didn't expect? Well,

Michael Sean Comerford: 

you know what happened to me? You know, I, it turns out that I wasn't I was a pretty good carny, I had a routine at every place, I got, in some cases, I would have the largest lines. So I would turn my bike ride from the second or third largest grossing bride into the best. So I was a good carny. And I was the top earner at the Texas State Fair of Texas, My game, My joint here. This this year was 2013 to 14, that's another thing we're going to get to it was a hard book to sell to anybody. And I eventually ended up self publishing. And I'm going to engage in a self publishing business, highly speculative, at this point, we're at the beginning of my journey. And it's not a success story yet. The first look is a success. But

Steve Brown: 

why was your have to come? Why was your line? Why was your ride the most popular? What were you doing?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Well, in, in, let's say, in California, I had a lolly ride, where I would get out there, if you hit the button, it was a swing ride. So the the ride would go up in the air and then start turning around and the swings would fly out in wide circles. And, but if you hit the button, it took like, five seconds to, for the machine to turn on. And then five seconds for the machine to go up in the air and then five seconds for it to go swinging around. So I would hit that thing and go out and among the people and I would say, Okay, everybody, I say Up, up, up, and all of a sudden, they would all be going up and it would look like I am ordering the machine to go up. And I'm clearly the only person there. And then I would say no way with you. And then we're going wide circles and circles and the kids start screaming and kids would come back again and again and say how did you do that? Mr. How would you do that? And then parents would come over and they would say you got to get a loan to this guy. He is he's going nuts. And so I did have a I had a show where I was so energetic. And the carnies and I got the idea afterwards, because one of the Carney said, Oh, my God, I've been in Carney since Carney since I was 11 years old. I wanted to be a Carney who was 11. I ran away at 14. And he says, I've been a carny that long, and I've never seen anyone with that kind of energy. And I go, Well, that's what I'm going to be. I mean, every Carnival I go to I'm going to be more energetic than anybody. And I'm going to have a show like no one's else Show. I'm in show business. And that's what I did. And if the Texas State Fair. There's these all pirate Carnival workers that were with me. I mean, I mean, one of them even talk like this, you know? And he says, You're never gonna get this. You're an idiot. And I go Alright, man, it's so I stood there right next to him. And we were in. We were throwing you have to throw these 16 inch softballs into like, laundry basket tubs. And if it's if they're the softball stays in the tub, you win. And if you don't, if it doesn't, you don't. And so literally, I without any forethought. The first person that came up, I said you, I said, I am going to hypnotize you. And she goes, What? You're going to hypnotize me. I said, Absolutely. And I'm going to hypnotize you with Mike's rainbow. She goes with Mike's rainbow. What's that? And then I go, Well, yeah, throw that ball in an arc, like a rainbow arc. And I will show you have to get it in. And you'll learn because you're hypnotized. And then I hypnotized her, and she kind of learned it. And then of course, she you know, she lost. But she thought she was gonna win. And she walked away thinking I was hypnotized for a while, and all of a sudden, people were coming over for Mike's rainbow. And that be hypnotized, and, and, and so forth. So I had, I had a variety of ways of making myself a character.

Steve Brown: 

So here you are, you're this unique character, you write this book. But in the traditional world of publishing, you're rejected over and over again. So what what what about you took this and persevere Regardless,

Michael Sean Comerford: 

well sense of shame on one level. I'm gonna spend a full year doing something and nothing comes out of it. Another aspect of it was that I kept a blog. And it was an exciting blog. It was very well followed because you didn't know if I was going to live or die. week because I was hitchhiking. And I went down to Mexico into the very cruise province, which is their state. I mean, and that's the most dangerous state of all in Mexico for journalists, they kill the most journalists. And so you don't know whether I'm going to live or die and you're following my blog in it. It got very popular I. I did not tell anybody, I was a jerk. A journalist. That's how, you know, the first Carnival owner told me showed me how the whole thing should go. I didn't tell anybody I was writing about them, or videotaping them. And so they had they had pictures and videotapes on the blogs. And I wrote magazine articles too. And I got reviews from the Chicago Tribune calling it area date, and I go don't call it area date. No one's gonna read area date, but, uh, enlightening and so forth, and exciting. And so I go, look, I, I know, the EMI came back, my sister said, Mike, I did not want to read this. I thought you were insane to do this. And but I started reading it. And it's all in the writing. I love it. I can't get over it. I'm obsessed with it. It's terrific. And I go, Well, if it's all in the writing, then the concept isn't going to be the one that sells it. The actual product is going to be the one that sells it. And I got an agent I sold tried to sell it out east and they some people wanted the carnival aspect. But no hitchhiking, and no journey part. And and I said no, you've got to have both. And they said well, then we're taking a pass because and I did the marketing. Eventually I did the marketing on this research. And they were right. Nobody wants to read about hitchhiking. It's a it's a horrible topic. And and carnivals unproven, also, there are Carnival books that have done well in the past, but a long time ago. And I mean, you can I guess you can consider on the road by jack Kerouac some book that went did well and had hitchhiking. But that also goes from the 40s or 50s. And so so yeah, it was it wasn't an obvious seller. And I just wanted to, I knew that the writing had gotten people on board, I knew that the magazines had gotten people on board, I knew I had built a platform. And I knew that I could write this book so that people would read it. And I kept getting rejected, I rewrote it every time almost every time, not every time it was rejected, okay, but I can tell you, I rewrote it more than two dozen times. And, and finally, you know, it got better and better and better. There were several books that might have been very good in the past two, completely different almost. But and so I've, I finally figured out how to self publish. And, you know, if you self publish, you can get 70 to 80% of your revenues. If you go through a traditional publisher, you will get eight to at most 15%, but usually right around 10% of all your revenues, and net revenues. So you can be a well, you know, reviewed in the New York Times Book Review and everything. And in fact, I know guys who have done that, and and make almost no money on it. And so if you self publish, you get to write the book you want to write, and you get a healthier percentage of your profits. And it's yours forever. So if my book sells a few thousand bucks this year, and a few thousand next year and a few thousand for the next 10 years, it's gonna make a lot of money. And so the potential is there to make a ton of money. But I have to write more books, and we can get to that later. But it's American eyes. I can't recommend it enough. The reviews are spectacular. And if it doesn't win, I mean at least being shortlisted for a Pulitzer because I published it right by right around the time I was thinking about this last night. I published it right around the deadline time for the Pulitzer And there was no hardcopy that was only paperback. And I think that that's going to do me but it's going to win awards. It's, it's, it's already highly acclaimed, and what a what a read if I can help if I can sell that a little bit to your listeners because

Steve Brown: 

of course, so of all your experiences this one obviously you wrote a book but you know why why wouldn't you? Who, who's crazy enough to go I think I'm going to go to Ireland where they box all the time and I'm gonna win a boxing championship. Yeah, that

Michael Sean Comerford: 

everything has story

Steve Brown: 

lesson is that because you're from Chicago, the only people from Chicago go and do something like that.

Michael Sean Comerford: 

You know, by the way, wearing this hat when I was in Chicago, I worked in Chicago, they all go, Oh, my dad is a freaking hayseed. But I know everything has an explanation. I mean, doesn't seem as adventurous if you if you know the whole backstory of Oh, riding bicycle out three times across America does. That's weird. And hitchhiking, around the Middle East and North Africa. That's weird. But boxing. That was my junior year of college. I went to junior year abroad and the tall so I was going to be a basketball player. But the basketball season got canceled. So I went, you know what, I'm gonna stay fit. I'm going to go into boxing and I boxed all year and then came the city championship and I won the heavyweight boxing championship of Cork, Ireland, which is the second biggest city in Ireland. If you're Irish Catholic. You your family came from cork harbor to America. And so it's a harbor city. It's a tough little town and I won by knockout. And it's a long fun story. And I bring it up all the time. My dad says I'm the quiet man. I'm john wayne and the quiet man. I went back to Ireland boxing championship. All the things I've ever done in my life. I could have died at age 21 years old, and I would have been a success because of that in my family.

Steve Brown: 

So I'm curious about your relationship with your daughter when you were apart and doing all these non traditional parental activities that would seem like risky and

Michael Sean Comerford: 

how are we now? Well, I'm back in I'm back in Barrington, which is outside of Chicago and I'm living near her and because I want to give her screw her up as badly as my parents screwed me. gave her some fatherly advice. And I want to be around her let her know she's loved and, and, and, and so I want to be near her but his family separation is so heartbreaking on the road. And she felt it because I was going through divorce at the time also. And so she was missing her dad she was seven years old. And and I came to town I saw her both in Chicago in in Minneapolis. And at Thanksgiving but amplify that by several times for the Mexicans. The Mexicans leave town in February. They leave to Lapa Coen. This is a little town in Veracruz state that empties out of men every year. It is almost a ghost town of men. It for nine months to 10 months a year. And they all go north and they work in traveling carnivals the mayor is the recruiter for for carnivals. And he sends them up north and they are separated from their wives and their children and everything for nine months. They never see him and they do it year after year. And that is real heartbreak and I and that I could relate to because again, I felt it. And so it's an ongoing theme that really, really tugs on the heartstrings because she really she'd really let me know that it hurt her. That wasn't around.

Steve Brown: 

Yeah, she was a part of this. And yeah, in a way as well. What's the one question that nobody ever asked you that you wish they would?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Well, I wish they would. I can tell you one that I wish they wouldn't and that was one of the one of the reviews which was it was a one star review and because that That, that that jerk left his daughter for a year. And I go, Oh crap, that'd be I didn't read the whole year. And that's not 100% true, but but it's somewhat true. There's that that's it. But uh,

Steve Brown: 

well,

Michael Sean Comerford: 

not enough people ask about, Well, I can tell you as a writer, that not not a lot of people ask about how hard it was to write, because I'm rewriting history real things, and I'm rewriting it. And that is difficult, but it was a joy. The living it was a joy. Also, it's fresh air, you're living outside your work till you're tired, then you get up again. And so there was great joy. It was a lot of fun. The writing was hard rewriting the rejection after rejection. And I've also been asked, Would you do it again? I know there's no reason for it. And but I did. I came back and I had a hard time finding any work and because well, I was a carnival worker and and I mean, that's not going to help you do corporate relations and PR and and I'm not kidding I am I interviewed with Allstate while I was going to work with went to Northwestern with me, I went to North of I have a master's degree from Northwestern, I have five degrees. But I walked in, and I was going to be corporate relations for Allstate, which is a six figure job. And I had to explain to them that I spent the last year running carnivals I was in carnivals for the last year and they just, I didn't get the job, even though the boss wanted me. And but my mother mother went, Oh, no, oh, no, I go What are you worried about? She goes, you're gonna go back to carnivals, aren't you? You're gonna work carnivals. Now I know it. They're the only ones that are gonna take you. And they go Holy crap, I'm gonna try to make I'm gonna try to make these books thing, this book thing work. And it and by the way, another aspect here is that I was in my 50s. And now 61. And turning your life around at a later age reinventing yourself is it's not easy. And I think it's not easy as a kid because you're but it is it's easier as a kid because you're inventing yourself constantly. And but as you get older than your get you kind of used to a certain person that you've been for a long time. And now I'm, I'm having to learn all the rhythms and, and I'm having to learn how to self publish with nobody looking over my shoulder and every time I hit a glitch. I have to problem solve my way out of it. And, and I wish by now I had I knew what I was doing. But every day is a new challenge and a new thing to learn, which is both exciting and frustrating and daunting.

Steve Brown: 

Michael, this has been a fascinating interview. Michael Sean commercial. His book is American oz. You can get it on Amazon. Where else can you get it Michael?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

Oh, everywhere I made sure that I'm covered wide. So you can get it on nook, Barnes and Noble, Kindle Apple, you can get it at your local store every every discount books site, you can find it everywhere. And it is a it is a quick read if that's what you love. It's as deep as you want it to be. If you want to read deeply, you're going to find some deep themes in here. And universal eternal themes. And and it it's a it's a book that you'll think about for a long time.

Steve Brown: 

Well, you can connect with Michael on on LinkedIn. Where else can they find you Michael?

Michael Sean Comerford: 

www.MichaelSeanComerford.com. Comerford being co m er f or D. MichaelSeanComerford.com. And I'm also on YouTube on that. And I also have a blog guys like carnivals. And, and I look forward to being a releasing more books out on climate change and things like that. But that's how the publishing business of mine is going to go forward.

Steve Brown: 

All right, Michael, thanks for being on the ROI online podcast. Thank you. All right, that's a wrap. Thanks for listening to another fun episode of the ROI online podcast. For more be sure to check out the show notes of this episode. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn where we can chat, and I can help direct you to the resources you're searching for. To learn more about how you can grow your business better, be sure to pick up your copy of my book, The Golden toilet at surprise that golden toilet.com. I'm Steve Brown, and we'll see you next week on another fun episode of the ROI online podcast.