Filtering by Tag: Pink Floyd

"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

The Grave Machine album turns 14 ...

*The album is cuurently available for free from this site*

When my band from 1997 through 2001, Drop Kick Jesus, officially broke up after releasing two albums and touring multiple times, the bass player and I decided to start a new band. In 2003, we recruited guitarist Pete Tachuk and moved forward as a three piece (something I had never done before). This new band, The Grave Machine, was steeped in horror movies and industrial / progressive metal (the average length of each song on the album was seven minutes long). We knew exactly who we were sonically, borrowing styles from bands like Ministry, Neurosis, Jesu,  Pitchshifter, and little bit of Pink Floyd. We knew exactly who we were atmospherically, using mass amounts of samples from movies like May, War of the Worlds, The Amityville Horror, and The Pit & The Pendulum. But here was the problem: I didn't quite know what I wanted to say lyrically.

I had a whole bunch of verses and scattered lyrics left over from the Drop Kick Jesus songs we had been working on when we broke up, but I didn't want The Grave Machine to just be Drop Kick Jesus v2.0. Drop Kick Jesus was angry, unapologetic, and like a constant quick jab and uppercut. The Grave Machine was gloomier, brooding, menacing, and more atmospheric. Some of the lyrics I had penned for the never-written third Drop Kick Jesus album just wouldn't fit the tone of The Grave Machine songs.

The album, all ten songs, took almost two full years to write. At some point during that first year of building the songs, my doctor put me on anti-depressants. Effexor-XR to be exact. I stayed on them, never missing a dose, for ten weeks ... and then I hocked the bottle into the trash and quit cold turkey. Never again. And that's when the withdrawal symptoms started and lasted for a week. Now, that doesn't sound like a long time, but one of the side effects of the withdrawal was I would get these shocks in my brain, like someone had just electrocuted me inside my head for half a second, and this happened over a hundred times daily. And during the ten weeks I was on the meds, I felt like an emotionless robot. Sure, I wasn't sad anymore, but I also couldn't get happy. It was atrocious.

That experience, between the lows before the pills, the emotional flat line during the treatment, and the ungodly withdrawal symptoms, gave me everything I needed to write what might be considered my first concept album. We didn't write the album as a concept album, but the album takes the listener through a journey of those terrible ten weeks. I had found an emotion in my lyrics and vocal melodies that I had never had in either of my two previous bands: Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus. I was writing lyrics in a style I had never written before. Both in Yellow #1 and Drop Kick Jesus, all my lyrics were very straight forward, no reading into different meanings, nothing cryptic. If I screamed, "Because I hate you!" in one of the songs ... it literally meant, "Because I hate you." The Grave Machine songs were finally a catalyst for me to build a world with adjectives and similes. I tried to take the listener through the experience without actually telling them about the experience. In the writing world, we call that "show don't tell." In my last two bands, I had been telling the listener everything. I was now showing the listener what I was trying to say.

After two years of writing, we traveled to Albany, NY for two weekends and recorded the self-titled album. Tragedie Ann vocalist, Nick Panneton, traveled with us for the first weekend and sang guest vocals on the song, "Covered In Silence." He's still convinced the bathroom in the studio is haunted.

The album was recorded fourteen years ago this month, and even after more than a dozen years removed, I am still very proud of that album; the music that was written, the use of the samples, my lyrics, and my willing to try to branch out vocally and try to convey new emotions with the tone of my voice. My wife still says that of the six albums I have been the lyricist/vocalist for in my life, this one is her favorite and feels it's my best vocal performance.

We disbanded in the summer of 2005 for personal reasons. It's a shame the album never got the legs I think it deserves, but the personal issues that separated us have been rectified, so maybe, just maybe, The Grave Machine might have a rebirth at some point in my life. If not, I will always be proud of being in that band and writing those songs and having that album as a part of my personal discography as a musician.

And oh, it was because of The Grave Machine that I met my wife ... so there's always that.

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