"Welcome to Parkview" turns 9 ... and how Billy Joel helped create my town

My second novel, Welcome to Parkview, was published 9 years ago this month. But what a long road it was to get this book in print and released for mass consumption. 19 years, to be exact.

I started Welcome to Parkview in 1991. The entire outline for the book was spawned in one night, while I was laying in my bed at 14 years old. I was on a Billy Joel kick and had been overdosing on all his cassettes that month, and there was something about the lyrics and musical overtones of his song "Piano Man" that resonated with me. The fact this 4-minute song could have so many believable characters (and within a single line of lyric, he gave the impression that each of these characters in the bar had an extensive backstory) was so intriguing to me as an aspiring author. I had started writing fiction in 1988 (3 years earlier) and had written around 30 short stories at this point. The thought to even attempt a novel had never crossed my mind ... until I started really thinking about "Piano Man."

Back to the night I was laying in bed: I rolled the lyrics around in my head, singing certain lines which contain specific descriptions of these characters, and my stepfather came home late from work. I heard my mother greet him at the front door, and from my bedroom, I was able to overhear him talk about driving past a local bar in my city that had, according to my stepfather, "something big going on outside because it took forever to drive by the bar." The bar he was talking about? A bar called Sneakers.

It was like the floodgates opened in my head. I heard him say the name of the bar, coupled with the lyrics of "Piano Man" so fresh in my ears, and I just knew there was a novel in there somewhere. I was going to congregate all these random people in a bar and just see what happens. Basically wanting the bar itself to be the main character of the book, and the people all secondary. I started working on my first novel that very next day, at 14 years old.

In the beginning, the novel was titled "A Bar Called Sneakers." It didn't change names until around 2004 (13 years after I started writing it.) But from 1991 - 1997, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Hours and hours. Weekends in high school and college, spent usually hanging out with friends, were traded in so I could stay home and write, write, write. I started writing in 1991 with a notebook and pen. Then my mother bought me a manual typewriter. I switched to the typewriter in 1992. Then, for Christmas in 1993, my mother bought me a Brother Word Processor, where I could save my writing on floppy discs.  Around 1997, I didn't quite know where I was going with the novel anymore. I hadn't written a single short story since 1991 -- I spent 6 years focusing every ounce of writing on the novel. I became discouraged with a stack of over 1,000 printed pages and no clear end in sight. So I shelved it.

In 2002 (5 years after boxing up the novel) I revisited what I had written up to that point and realized that I forgot how much I loved the characters and fictional town. I missed all those people and places. I forged onward, and between 2002 and 2008, I finished the novel. It was during this stretch where I changed the name of the novel to what it is now. Taking 5 years off really cleared my head, and I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel that I couldn't see when I was so far deep into the writing during those first 6 years.

Throughout the 19 years it took to create and destroy the town of Parkview, I had many more songs than just "Piano Man" helping to shape the characters and the ambiance of the town. Songs from bands like Pink Floyd, Queen, REM, Tool, Neil Diamond, Faith No More, Nine Inch Nails, ABBA, Queen, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Jesus Jones, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Front 242, Pigface, Blue October, The The, Genesis, The Mars Volta, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and a handful of others because a muse for my town.

I finished the novel in 2008 at 246,000 words (give or take a few words.) I hired 3 separate editors, and between 2008 and 2010, I worked with these 3 editors vigorously. Keep in mind, by this point, I was already a published author, with my first book "Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts" being released in 2007 (I wrote that between 2006 - 2007). After "Welcome to Parkview" went through its 3 full edits, we whittled the 246,000 words to a more manageable 88,000 words. My first editor made me go back and not just edit or revise a lot of what I had written between 1991 - 1997, but physically rewrite a lot of scenes. Heck, they were originally written by a teenager, and if I wanted this to sound like it was written by a professional author, a lot of verbiage and dialogue and narrative needed to be rewritten in an adult's voice. So that took a few more months. Just to give you an example of how much was cut from the first 246,000 word draft, the first chapter in the published version of the book is around 10,000 words. In the original draft, the first chapter is around 70,000 words.

I will forever call Welcome to Parkview a labor of love. 19 years of my life and 246,000 words later, I was able to present a 88,000 word novel that I am very proud of, and 9 years after publication, seems to still be making an impression on readers.

Welcome to Parkview is available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook right here on my site or everywhere books are sold.

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND NOVELIZATION GREEN-LIGHTED

How many of you did the Humpty Hump in 1990? You remember, that old-school rap song by Digital Underground (that included Tupac) … "The Humpty Dance" was the first song off Digital Underground's album, Sex Packets--considered by many to be the first real rap concept album. Like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and The Who's Tommy or Quadrophenia, Digital Underground had written a rap version of a prog-rock concept album. Only this album's story took place in an alternate reality, in the ghetto, where drug dealers weren't slinging crack or pot--they were slinging sex in a packet.

I approached Money B and Shock G of Digital Underground about turning their seminal album into a rock-fiction novel (just as I had done with Electric Light Orchestra and Dog Fashion Disco). Money B has given me the thumbs up to try to bring their semi-dystopian storyline from the speakers to the pages.

As of right now, we are shooting for a first-quarter 2020 release schedule. The book is currently untitled; however, you can bet your biscuits that Humpty Hump I will be a major player in the narrative.

… more soon

My band Yellow #1's album "Thanks for the Nostalgia" turns 3

Waaaaay back in 1995, I started my first band, Yellow #1. We released one album in 1996 called Bottle of Rain. We played about three years worth of live shows all over New England; we even opened for Godsmack and had a song from the album ("Broken Eyes") played on Boston radio station WAAF. Oh, and a few music magazines reviewed the album. I approached the songwriting as a Mr. Bungle meets Nine Inch Nails. Then, in 1998, we played our last live show and broke up. I went on to front the bands Drop Kick Jesus, The Grave Machine, and Transpose … never ever thinking Yellow #1 would ever see the light of day again.

Then, in 2014, while we were living in Japan (and Transpose had just come off its last tour), I decided it might be time to resurrect the band and see if we had another album of tunes in us after 19 years. Work on the second album began in 2014 with producer and hip-hop artist Darius Malloy (RedStryke). The difference from Bottle of Rain that I was most adamant about this album, was I did not want a single real instrument on the album. The first album, along with all the programming, synthesizers, and drum machines, still had live drums, acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar, harmonica, and tambourine. I knew I wanted this album to completely exist inside computer programs.

Darius worked with me on four songs, supplying beats and bass lines. I got to work on the other songs and filled in the gaps of what he left for me on his songs. In 2015, I had twelve songs completely written for the new album. All I had left was to write the lyrics.

Bottle of Rain had been built lyrically from the strife and angst of Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Quicksand. I was 20 years older and didn't quite carry the same frustrations with life or my inner demons anymore. BUT, I knew in order to assign the Yellow #1 moniker to the album, it still needed to FEEL like a Yellow #1 album. This was the first album of ANY of my bands' albums (this is the 7th album I have released throughout my 4 bands) where the lyrics were less introspective and more worldly. I put my own personal journal in the backseat and focused more on universal topics that still create a rise in me. I also hadn't written lyrics for an album since 2011, when Transpose had released our second album, Retribution, so there was some rust to shake off.

I entered the recording studio in Jacksonville, NC in June, 2016 and spent 6 weeks recording the 12 songs' vocals. In typical Yellow #1 style, we used a multitude of vocoders and layers of vocal effects to help make my voice sound different in every song. Just like we had done 20 years ago on Bottle of Rain. It was like wearing an old hat. All the old Yellow #1 atmosphere in the studio came back so effortlessly once I stepped into that vocal booth.

We named the album Thanks for the Nostalgia and used a beautiful picture of Japan at the base of Mt. Fuji, since the album was started there and the song "Kenritsudiagaku" is about what it was like to live in Japan as an American family. It was a very cathartic journey, making a second Yellow #1 album after two decades of silence. I can't even try to project when there might be a third Yellow #1 release, but I had so much fun making this album, I can promise it won't be another 20 years before there is new music from the Yellow #1 camp. 

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