Filtering by Tag: Genesis

"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.

Transpose's "Retribution" turns 7 years old

My band, Transpose, released our second album, Retribution, seven years ago this month. It had been four years since our first album, and we had played enough shows within those four years where we really wore out that first album. It was time to not only have some new material to play live, but way past due to give the fans a new batch of songs.

This album was the most unique album I have ever been a part of. It is the only true concept album I have ever written. The songs can't be listened out of order; there are characters, dialogue, a plotline, a climax, and resolution. We began writing this album right around the time I was in the editing stages of my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, and there was a part of that novel (which was eventually removed and did not appear in the published version) that was about 20 pages long and told the story of a man who knew his wife was cheating on him, so he follows her and spies on her meeting some random man at a hotel. When he confronts her the next morning, she won't tell him what happened, so he burns the hotel where the affair happened to the ground, killing everyone inside, but ultimately forgiving his wife in the process.

I removed this part from the book and instead rewrote the 20 pages into lyrics, keeping some of the dialogue to be sung in the songs. We were really going for a true concept album like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or The Who's Quadrophenia. An album that is really just one long song; a story put to music.

It was also the first album, of the now 7 albums I have written, where the lyrics were written first, and THEN the band put music to what was happening in the story. Up until Retribution, every other albums' songs had been finished musically first, and I would come in and write the lyrics and vocal pattern around the preexisting music. This time, as a band, we had to verbalize what was going on in the "scene" and then write the music to that action.

In the studio, we added sound effects to accent what was happening in the scene: alarm clocks, sounds of people eating, a woman moaning, footsteps on stairs, firetrucks etc. It was a lot of fun to drop those into the songs throughout. This was also the most amount of keyboards I had written/played on an album since Drop Kick Jesus' album Splatterguts, which came out in 1998, so it was also a lot of fun to get behind the keyboard and compose again.

As soon as the album was finished, it marked the birth of a totally new live show for Transpose. Gone were the random order of songs from the first album. Our shows were now Retribution from start to finish, and then our encore; which consisted of about three songs from the first album, A Delicate Impact. We moved the songs from the first album to the end of the show and performed the new album in its entirety as the meat of the live shows. We toured pretty extensively on the Retribution album for two years.

I even made a film to go along with the album; a visually journey of the story as the album plays. That film can be found here on my site under the MEDIA tab or on YouTube. We would play the film at our merch table on a TV during the tours and shows.

I have been a part of 7 albums in my musical career total, and Retribution, still to this day, is the album I am most proud of than any other album I have written. I don't know what the future will bring in regards to how I will feel about future albums, but this one will always be super special to me. It was one of those albums where I felt everything just clicked the whole way through. And not just because it was the first time one of my stories had been turned into an album that I could sing every night on stage.

Oh, and we also recorded a cover of Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" during the recording sessions and added it as a hidden bonus track on the album. Ha!

First interview for my new novel, "Moonlight City Drive."

Pumkin Escobar interviewed me yesterday about my upcoming novel, "Moonlight City Drive," (first official interview about the new book) for the official Dog Fashion Disco Facebook fan group:

As a writer;

What was the first song/album that made you think of becoming a rock-fiction writer?

-      It was 1991. I was on a Billy Joel kick and was overdosing on "Piano Man." To the point where I was listening to just that song upwards of 10 times a day. Just obsessing over the lyrics and the characters he sings about. I had been writing short stories for 3 years at this point (not a single one having anything to do with music, just random horror, drama, and sci-fi short stories to amuse myself and friends.) I was lying in bed one night in '91 and thinking about the people in "Piano Man" and wondering if any of them had a backstory, or if any of them had a future story past that night in the bar. I decided it was time to try to write my first novel, and I was going to base it off "Piano Man." 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. Coincidentally, my stepfather came home late that very night I had gotten inspired to write this rock-fiction novel (this type of writing didn't even have a name yet) and I heard my mother ask him why he was late. He told her that there had been a bad accident in front of the bar Sneakers (a real bar in my hometown.) As soon as I heard the name of the bar, I immediately knew I had to put some Piano Man-like characters in there and just let them... exist. And see what kind of stories they had. So I started writing (at the time the novel was called "A Bar Called Sneakers") in 1991 what would eventually become my second published novel in 2010: "Welcome to Parkview." Obviously, if you have read the book, you'll know the bar (even though makes an appearance in multiple chapters) takes a backseat and the city of Parkview became the main character (hence why the name change of the novel when I was finished with it.) But I did stay true to my idea of all the residents of the town staying secondary characters. Once I realized I was writing a novel version of "Piano Man," I knew there would have to be more songs to adapt, in order to move my characters around the town and create conflict and an actual story arc. So I was organically being inspired by different songs by different bands throughout the writing of the novel, finding songs that would lead my characters through their journeys and expand upon the building of their town. If you pick any song that is on the list of songs that were adapted for the novel, I could tell you exactly which chapter was spawned from that song. As "Piano Man" was the original catalyst to springboard the book from the speakers to the page overall (and I guess is the ground-zero song for me becoming a rock fiction author), the other songs that are credited for the creation of the novel were used to dictate very specific moments or conflicts for the characters. I started the book in 1991 and finished in 2009, coming in at 246k words. I hired 3 different professional editors and in 2010 we had it whittled down to a neat and concise 88k words. It was published in July, 2010 (19 years after that night when I decided to write my first novel based off a Billy Joel song.)


Did you ever "get it wrong" interpreting an album?

-      “Moonlight City Drive” will be 6th published rock-fiction adaptation (that includes short stories), and I really hope I didn’t get ANY of them wrong. That would not only be a great disservice to the band themselves, but to all their fans. However, I was outlining Genesis’ song “Supper’s Ready” to be a short story back in 2015, and I realized I didn’t have a good enough grasp on the song yet to be able to do it justice. So instead, I turned Jethro Tull’s album, “Rock Island” into a story, which became “The Whaler’s Dues” and was published in 2016. Maybe one day I’ll try to tackle “Supper’s Ready” again.


Just as actors need to prepare for a roll and stay in character, did any of your work take you to a good or bad place (mentally)? Did it leave a lasting impression on you?

-      Wow… well all 4 of my novels took me, emotionally, into a dark place. In “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts,” the day I found out David had died was rough to write (and I wound up drinking WAY too much). In “Welcome to Parkview,” there is a revenge/murder scene that I really let my demons come out to write, and it’s probably one of the most brutal things I’ve ever written. In “Yours Truly, 2095,” I had a hard time writing the scene where the main character finds half his daughter on a factory table, and in “Moonlight City Drive…” let’s just say there’s a scene with a lot of fire that, while I was writing, I had to sit back and ask myself if I had finally gone too far. (no spoilers)


How involved are the artists on your novels, if at all? (do you need permission for all novels?)

-      I don’t need permission to write/publish the novels / stories, but I DO need permission if I am to have any of the lyrics of the album/song that I am adapting in the novel/story. So far, I have only received permission twice of my seven-published works: God Lives Underwater (for “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts”) and Dog Fashion Disco (for “Moonlight City Drive). The other 2 novels and my 3 short stories, I just made sure I didn’t use ANY lyrics from the albums/songs.


For the Adultery/Moonlight City Drive Novel;

Is this the quickest novel you've written?

-      Absolutely. This book took me just shy of 4 months to write. “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts” took me 20 months to write, “Welcome to Parkview” took me 19 years (from inception to publication), and “Yours Truly, 2095” took me 36 months to write.


How do you feel about it now that you are done?

-      After getting it back from my editor (and all her positive praise of the novel) and the mass amounts rewrites in the 3rd draft, I am totally in love with it.


I know you had started the process around May when we all met in Baltimore. Had you been plotting this book for a long time? If not, how easy/difficult was it to create the story line?

-      I always thought the album would make a great movie or graphic novel when it came out. It was never really on my radar for ME to adapt into a rock-fiction novel. In fact, when the album came out in April, 2006, I wasn’t even a published author yet. Then when I got into rock-fiction, I had some other albums that I felt I needed to write first to get out of my system before I could tackle this story. Also, the previous works helped me improve as a writer, so when it came time to novelize “Adultery,” I had sharpened my chops and could due the album better justice. To be honest, the lyrics of “Adultery” are approximately 2,000 words total, and more than half of the time are really ambiguous. So, to turn a 2k word piece of source material into a 77k word novel took a lot of creative liberties on my part, to fill in all the “empty space” of the lyrics and storyline. That was the most daunting task for me; to color in the blank spaces in-between the colors that were the lyrics.


You really seemed to enjoy working with the Facebook group on this novel. Did it help the process? Would you consider this on future novels with other groups?

-      Yes. The Moonlight City Drive Facebook group was fantastic to have. When I needed help with a certain model of a vehicle, you guys had a plethora of suggestions. When I needed help flushing out certain lyrics, everyone came together and spitballed their interpretations with me, which really helped steer the ship. I would absolutely so another group like that one for future novels.


Given that this book is about a detective and a private investigator hunting a killer, how did your "day job' as a police officer help develop those characters? Did anything in the writing process open your eyes to any open cases?  Assuming you are "beat cop” (if that is the correct slang term:) has this made you want to become a detective or private investigator?

-      It really didn’t. I am a patrolman, which means I don’t do in-depth detective work. And to be honest, policing and detective work has changed so much from 1947 (when the book takes place) to 2017. There is very little focus on the “policing” side of the detective character, and more on the “private” investigator angle of the main character. I had a chance to take the detective test at my police department in 2009 and I choose not to. I love being a “beat cop.”


Silly time;

How much coffee do you drink to function???

-      3 cups a day


Favorite curse word?

-      Fuck         


Boxers or Briefs?

-      Yes


Tits or ass?

-      Ass


 Mayo or Miracle Whip?

-      A1 sauce


Toilet Paper-over/under?

-      over

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