Filtering by Tag: The Whaler's Dues

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

My interview for the "A Haunting of Words" blog tour

Blurb for "Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys)": A disenchanted-youth ghost story, with a cat named Bonnie, a restraining order, lovers on the rocks, and a hanging teenager, swinging from the trees near the train tracks by the lake.

What inspired you to write this story?: It’s a rock-fiction adaptation of Porcupine Tree’s “Fear of a Blank Planet” concept album.

How long have you been writing?: I wrote my first story, “The Night is Young,” in 1988 but, my first novel, “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts,” wasn’t published until 2007.

What genres do you most associate with in your writing: I write in a genre called rock fiction—which is a sub-genre of musical fiction—where a single song, an entire album, or the span of a band/artist’s complete work is novelized, using the literal lyrics to directly create the plotline and story arc, and usually the title of the book/story is taken directly from the song/album that the work is an adaptation of. But what makes it special, is being able to write a story or novel where the reader doesn’t even need to have ever heard the songs/album to understand and enjoy the work. These novels and stories, although adaptations of albums or songs, are also stand-alone books. Just like you don’t have to have read a book to enjoy or understand the movie adaptation, you don’t need to have heard the album (or even need to have ever heard OF the band before) to understand or love a rock-fiction novel. Rock-fiction novels are unique in the sense that they already have two built-in audiences right out of the gate: the fan base of whatever band’s album is being adapted, and the fan base of the genre the book is written in. It’s not a prerequisite to know the album to read a rock-fiction novel. In fact, I bet most people read a rock-fiction novel purely based on its blurb and have no idea it is an album adaptation. That’s the beauty of rock fiction.

What are you working on right now?: My upcoming 4th novel, “Moonlight City Drive,”  is currently being sent to my editor this week. It has a November, 3 release date (the novel’s book release party is scheduled at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland during a two-day concert event featuring Dog Fashion Disco and Chuck Mosley, of Faith No More). It’s a supernatural crime-noir thriller set in a Dick Tracy meets Sin City atmosphere. The story follows a detective on the trail of a Jack-the-Ripper-style killer, who he starts to admire and has to decide if he should continue the cat-and-mouse chase, or join the killer and his cult of ghouls in his cleansing of society.

What else do you have available/published?:
My novels:
"Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts" is about what it would be like to befriend a rock star who becomes a drug addict, and the trials and tribulations of having a friend who's dealing with fame, drug addiction, depression, social anxiety, and the throes of the music business.

"Welcome to Parkview" is a cerebral-horror novel where the town itself is the main character, and the stories of the residents and how the town starts to eat away at the fabric of their lives. (One reviewer described it as early Stephen king meets The Twilight Zone.)

"Yours Truly, 2095" is a time-travel romance novel about a man who wakes up 114 years in the future. A future that has many opportunities for a new start from a past that is shrouded in a failing marriage and a deceased daughter. And he has to decide whether he wants to stay forever in his life in 2095, or go back and try to reconcile and repair the life he left behind in 1981.

My short stories:
“Outside of Heaven” (which appears in “A Matter of Words”) is a rapture-monster, post-apocalyptic story that deals with a group of strangers at a motel, who have to survive the night of the rapture, and the monsters who are sent to fulfill its prophecy.

“The Whaler’s Dues” (which appears in a “A Journey of Words”) is a modern-day, mythological-romance story about a man who falls in love with a stripper who is not what she appears to be. And the adventure that ensues.

The third story is my A Haunting of Words story discussed above.

What advice do you give to new writers?: Sleep is for the weak.

List links where people can find your work:

You can purchase A Haunting of Words (available in paperback and eBook) through the Scout Media online store at: and get an exclusive companion soundtrack CD, or through Barnes & Nobles, Target, Books-a-Million, and Amazon.


"Yours Truly, 2095" turns two years old!

My third published novel, Yours Truly, 2095, has its second birthday this month. I can't believe that it has been two full years now since its been out, especially since it took me three full years to research, outline, write, and edit.

Starting off as an idea to take one of my favorite albums of all time, Electric Light Orchestra's concept album Time, and try to adapt it into a direct novelization was something I had been tossing around in my head since high school, almost twenty-five years ago. The concept album, which follows a man who wakes up in the year 2095 with a robot for a wife, not knowing how he got there, and trying to get back to his real wife in 1981, had always intrigued me, not only as song lyrics, but as a stand alone storyline.

It took almost nine months to dissect every single lyric so I could write an outline and find enough story arcs, plot lines, and character developments within the words to where I felt comfortable writing a 90k word novel based around a 16-track album that clocks in at around 55 minutes.

Writing the novel during the four years that I lived in Japan, I approached it initially as a Michael Crichton-style sci-fi story; I wanted the technology to be so steeped in science-fact, that there would never need to be a suspension of disbelief from the reader (even when the characters have to go to the moon). I really wanted an organic feeling story that didn't have whirling time machines and technology that seemed far-fetched. What I never expected was that I would wind up with a time-travel romance novel.

Staying true to every single lyric of the Time album (heck, even the front cover of the book is an adaptation of the front cover art of the album), I found I had a lot of holes that needed to be filled in with my own literary license. Even though it IS a concept album, it's not as concrete as, say, Pink Floyd's The Wall or The Who's Tommy, where there is no mistaking what is happening, what everyone is thinking, and what everyone is saying.

I realized, after the book's final draft was approved, was I had a novel (even though it IS a direct and perfect adaptation of a band's album) that anyone, and I mean ANYONE, could read. My biggest concern (and also some friends when I told them what I was working on) was that people who didn't know who Electric Light Orchestra was, wouldn't even TRY to read the book. Why should they? Especially If its a novelization of an album they'd never heard of? But I was able to write a straight forward time-travel romance novel that works twofold: 1) if you are an Electric Light Orchestra fan, you will "see the storyline" of the Time album in every piece of action and dialogue ... or 2) if you have no idea who Electric Light Orchestra is, this book is a stand-alone time-travel romance novel full of mystery and action and suspense. You do not need to know ANYTHING about the source material to enjoy the book or for it to make sense. In fact, most of the positive reviews I have received are from people that only found out AFTERWARD that the book is based on an album. And the positive reviews from Electric Light Orchestra fans have applauded me for taking a revered album and turning into a novel that stayed true to the tone and storyline of Time.

Yours Truly, 2095 was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2016, however, it did not make the finalists. It is my first, true, rock-fiction novel or story I have ever published (Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts is ABOUT the band God Lives Underwater's music, and Welcome to Parkview is heavily inspired by Billy Joel's song "Piano Man," but neither are an actual adaptation like this is). This also proved to me that I COULD produce a worthy rock-fiction novel, which then lead me to write and publish an apocalyptic-rapture short-story adaptation of Moby's song "Spiders" ("Outside of Heaven"), a modern mythological-romance short-story adaptation of Jethro Tull's album Rock Island ("The Whaler's Dues"), and a dramatic ghost short-story adaptation of Porcupine Tree's album Fear of a Blank Planet ("Anesthetize or a Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys"). Later this year my next novel will be released: a novelization of Dog Fashion Disco's album Adultery.

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