Filtering by Tag: Queen

"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.

and after 6 comes 7... with a love of music and sports

My son turned 7 today. I feel like it was just yesterday when he was still only 2 and we had just moved to Japan. He spent from 2 to 6 living in Japan so I guess one could say that he "grew up in Japan." Which was an amazing experience for him.

This past year alone two very distinct characteristics have emerged. His love for sports and his love for music. Everett has always loved sports and music since he was a toddler (dancing around a year old in diapers to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies...) but it was really this year when it started to become who he is.

Sports. He went to Baseball Camp in Florida (thanks to Grandma and Grandpa) over the summer, played his first real season of flag football in Japan, finally learned all 32 NFL team names, plays football and basketball with me at our house whenever we can spare a few minutes, graduated to the 8-10 year old gymnastics class here in town, and just seems to have a natural talent for throwing or catching.... anything, really.

Music. What started with liking random one-songs by bands, has turned into liking "the band." In an odd turn of events, the first band that Everett liked (and by that I mean, he didn't like a song, he had an entire album, listened to it all the way through, and liked every song) was Antemasque. When their debut album came out, I pretty much listened to it non-stop in the car. He learned every song on the album and sang loudly in the backseat. Stephanie and I had gotten the kids mini iShuffles and he asked me if I could put Antemasque's album on his. This was where he learned that band's have full albums, and not just random songs on the radio. His second album that he loved from start to finish was The Who's "Tommy." He would walk around the house singing mash-up choruses from the entire album. (One night I even got the movie from Netflix and we watched it together, him singing along with the characters.) The Who's entire discography made its way onto his iShuffle. Then came Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Bad" albums. Then we went to Karoake one night as a family in Japan, and I did Faith No More's song "Epic." Everett quickly picked up on the "What is it? It's it!" chorus and had a blast singing with me. That was the first time he had ever heard Faith No More, and from that moment, started a long love affair which would eventually entail hanging out with the band in NYC. In the car in the following days, Everett would ask to hear the "What is it" song. I would happily oblige. Then Faith No More announced they were coming to Tokyo with Antemasque as the opening band and I got tickets to go with my friend Cameron. When Everett found out, he was disappointed that he couldn't go. I started playing more Faith No More songs in the car, and there wasn't a single song that Everett didn't like, from any album. He started learning the lyrics and singing along. Finally, Faith No More's entire discography wound up on his iShuffle. That was the beginning of the end of listening to anything else for him. We found out that Faith No More were playing NYC and I got 2 tickets to see them, one for me and one for Everett. We all know how that night went: backstage passes, hung out with the band... Now we are living in NC, Japan is behind us, and because of the movie Pixels, he discovered Queen. He asked me to put Queen's entire discography on his iShuffle, which I happily obliged. So now he switches between Queen and Faith No More.

This birthday all he's wanted was a drumset. Ever since that Faith No More show in August, and meeting their drummer Puffy after the show, he has been drum-driven. This morning, I woke him up for school by playing his shiny new red drum set, with a Faith No More banner draped over it, which he can use as a dust jacket for the kit when he's not playing it.

I loved that I got to see his sports and music side become focused this past year... it'll be interesting to see how much more he grows from 7 to 8.

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