Monday, May 26, 2014
It looks frickin' awesome. But, I wanted to have individual drawings for the chapters. Vill was kind enough to revise his drawing to make it into three solo stills of Allison, Brian and Kate. I didn't want his original art to go unseen, so here it is. I'm sure by looking at it, you can imagine a title above the image and credits down below, like typical teen movie from the 80s.
I always liked this song and the kind of pop R&B it represents. Even though that may be a drum machine playing behind Watley, it sounds like it was programmed by someone who knows a thing or two about percussion. Watley's song was a smash hit back in the 80s, and I think that it holds up pretty well nearly 30 years later.
This type of R&B, as well as a lot of pop music from back in the day, are the material I listened to when writing Kate. Even though she likes things that are polished and slick, Kate still has a backbone and doesn 't take any crap from anyone, including her boyfriend.
Click Here to read Chapter 3 of Legendary.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Sammy is an everyman rocker who doesn't treat his audience as if they're beneath him. Roth, to me, always comes across as "I'm cooler than you," while Sammy is "You're as cool as me." This includiveness won over the Van Halen diehards, as well as new fans.
5150 may have had some half-baked electronic drums, but all of the songs rock, thanks to the combined efforts of Eddie and Alex Van Halen, as well as the impecible harmonies of Michael Anthony. No one sings better together than Sammy and Michael Anthony.
In Legendary, Brian and his suburban friends are guys who dabble in the burgeoning college radio music, but primarily stick with the blue collar, AOR/classic rock bands that maintain popularity despite the rise of hair metal and teenie bopper pop like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. "Dreams" was a logical selection for the book, as it's a great summer song, and it wouldn't be surprising to hear it being played on the radio a year after it was released.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
One of my favorite bands from the 80s, the Pretenders appear in this chapter. Seems that if you grew up in Cleveland during that decade you were bound to hear the Pretenders on any radio format, be it AOR, top 40 or Classic Rock. Chrissie Hynde, the leader and focal point of the band, hails from Akron. Because of that city's close proximity to Cleveland (it's about a 42 minute drive), Cleveland stations liked to claim Hynde as one of their own. I'm not so sure she wanted any part of that, but it worked in her favor as the Pretenders developed a loyal fan base in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.
The Pretenders had their major breakthrough with 1983's Learning to Crawl, which features the haunting "Back on the Chain Gang," one of my favorite songs of all time. I considered using that song to open the book, but changed it to "Don't Get Me Wrong," the band's hit single from their 1986 LP, Get Close. I felt that this song fit the opening chapter much better because a) the song was current for that year, and b) the upbeat sound of it has a peppiness I'd associate with the mall. There is an optimism to "Don't Get Me Wrong" that places you in the mind Allison. She's ready for new and great things to happen, and this song conveys that feeling.
I made a concerted effort to include as many female artists as I could in the soundtrack to Legendary, With two female protagonists, I thought it was important that all of the music wasn't testosterone driven. That doesn't mean the songs aren't bad ass and don't rock. In the coming weeks, the Go-Go's and Joan Jett have some ass kicking songs featured in the book. Using the Pretenders was a no-brainer, and turned out to be a perfect way to begin the book.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Throughout the summer, as the chapters go up, I'll try to post info about the book and some of the music I chose. At the very least, it will give you a reason to return to the site on a regular basis.
Tomorrow, chapter 1 and the Pretenders. See you then!
Here's the link:
Saturday, May 17, 2014
I completed the first draft around Thanksgiving of that year. Now entitled Legendary, I sent it to my friend who worked at Simon & Schuster. At Christmastime, we met for coffee to discuss the book's potential. She had general notes on how to make the book better, and felt that it was worth pursuing. Her two biggest suggestions were 1) changing the time period from the 1980s to the present day. This way, the book might have a better chance of getting read, and I might get a literary agent. And 2) reducing the number of main characters/narrators. In adapting the screenplay, I'd come up with seven different narrators for Legendary. The book may have captured the ensemble feel of a Paul Thomas Anderson film, but it was hard to follow.
I had no problem with any of what she said. On the spot I decided I would rewrite the book to follow the love triangle that made up one third of Legendary (the other two stories might make it into another book someday. Who knows?) The feedback I received got me excited to dive back into the text.
Throughout 2011, I revised, revised, revised. Some writers hate the editing process, but I find it thrilling. It's like a puzzle and you're trying to find the exact word or phrase to fit the sentence or paragraph. Maybe you cut entire passages, things you love, but it's all for the betterment of the book.
By the end of 2011, I had completed the new version of Legendary. My friend reread it and was enthusiastic. She even offered to submit it to her bosses, and to allow me to use her name in some of the query letters I sent to literary agents. This was how I knew that she wasn't just paying me lip service that Legendary was pretty good. If she was afraid that Legendary would have embarrassed her, she wouldn't have offered what she did.
I did the query routine, sending the book to a long list of agents. Unfortunately I was turned down by all. Maybe I shouldn't say that, but I'm not ashamed. That's part of the game, right? Rejection is how an artist grows. I actually received some very kind feedback from several agents. Most of them really liked the character of Allison (one even suggested rewriting the book entirely from her point of view), but almost all of them said that trying to get a book with a male protagonist as the central character would be too difficult.
It was disappointing, to say the least, but I didn't let it get me down. The experience of writing Legendary gave me the confidence to continue writing prose. For the second time in its life, "Finding the Way," now known as Legendary, was put to sleep in a file cabinet, or rather a hard drive.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Thanks to Nick Jennings for the great work.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Sunday, May 11, 2014
One of the features that Popdose provides me is the ability to post songs with my chapters. This is one reason I'm not going directly the Kindle route with this book. Much like I did with every Basement Song post that ran on Popdose, a song will be incorporated into every chapter.
When I was a teenager, music was always playing, either on the radio, through someone's stereo, or over the PA systems in the stores or restaurants I frequented. You hear phrases like "soundtrack to my life" and that's what I tried to do with each character in the book. There are 36 songs total. Not all of them are obvious 80s songs (Mason Ruffner shows up) and the final soundtrack proves to be a pretty solid playlist.
When I began putting together this project, I was leafing through a The New Yorker and a light bulb went off. Another way to make the serial novel unique and (hopefully) a reason for people to come by for 12 weeks would be to post an original work of art with each chapter. Much like you see in magazines like The New Yorker or The Atlantic, each chapter of Legendary will contain an original work of art that was inspired by the text.
I approached close to 30 artists and gave them free reign to draw, paint, photograph or digitally create something to post with a chapter I sent them. In addition, three separate banners have been created - one each for the three main characters - that will run with every post.
The artwork has begun coming in and I've been blown away at how great it's turning out. I think you will, too.
In the coming days I'll provide some background information on the book. Be sure to come back!
Team Jacob raised over $9,000, and the Valencia Great Strides walk has raise $112,000 to date!
That's frickin' amazing. Our small community raised a butt load of money!!
The walk day was hot and wonderful. This year we were in a new location at the mall, one that was a little removed from the "in your face" presence we've had in years past, but the flip side was that the traffic was a little safer.
The turnout for the walk was exceptional, and our team had close to 50 walkers. I owe all of you personal "thank yous," and they will be forthcoming. For now, I'm sending out a HUGE, universal "thanks" to all of our family and friends. It's your love and support that has kept our family afloat and filled with optimism. I wish I could hug each and every one of you. Alas, that would be costly and some of you might not like getting a big embrace from a sobbing father.
Tell you what, next year you're all invited to the Walk and we'll have a blow out in our backyard.
Not sure where we'll fit everyone...
Seriously, though, thank you one and all. Your generosity instills hope in the lives of so many people you do not know. God bless you.
Friday, May 2, 2014
This year we started out slow in raising money for Great Strides, the annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fundraiser to find a cure, but things really kicked into gear these last two weeks. Our team set a goal for $5K, and we surpassed that by over $2,000. Among the ways that we had people contribute (beside the usual soliciting of money through emails and posts) were a fund rasier at Jacob's school, a bake sale at the school where Julie works, Sophie's own efforts, and a bucket I placed on a table at my office. All of these proved to be successful ways to raise money. It was very, very thrilling.
One of the coolest things that happened was the contributions by Brave New World, the comic store in Santa Clarita where Jacob buys his comic books. Portlyn, the owner, donated a basket for the walk raffle, and she posted a wonderful note on her weekly email blast to all of her customers. It was amazing for me to read, but for Jake it was one of the coolest things ever. In the comics world, I feel like he has found kindred spirits and a way to escape being the boy with CF. The folks at Brave New World have embraced Jacob and his cause and made him feel like one of their family.
I can't believe that it's been 12 years that we've been doing Great Strides. I can barely recall the first one. I know I was emotional, as I will be tomorrow. No doubt I will have to escape to a bedroom at some point tomorrow night during our annual dinner with all of the walkers and weep over the outpouring of love our family has been show. I've been in a funk all week; the tears have been on the edge for a couple of days.
To all of you reading this, thank you for giving your love, support and money to find a cure. We are optimistic about what is in store for CF people in the next 10 years. Your money has helped in the development of new therapies that will someday put an end to this damn illness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
May 3 is the Valencia Great Strides and there's still plenty of time to donate. Please check out our team page, watch Sophie's wonderful video, and consider making a contribution to ending cystic fibrosis.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
After years of missed opportunities, high school seniors Brian and Allison have finally shared their first kiss. Unfortunately, this momentous event doesn’t meet with the approval of Kate, Brian’s long time girlfriend. As Allison struggles to emerge from the worst year of her life, Brian must determine when to fight for love- and when to walk away. Hearts will be broken and friendships tested as Brian, Allison and Kate find themselves at the same party on a night that is sure to be legendary.
Set is a northeast Ohio suburb, Legendary is told through the distinct voices of the three protagonists. This emotionally driven contemporary story was inspired by the sincere and humorous writing of John Green and David Levithan, as well as filmmakers John Hughes and Cameron Crowe.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
No, it won't be all new wave or hair metal. Anyone who knew me back in the day will recall my two crates full of LPs, as well as multiple cases of cassette tapes. I hope to cull from my collection to provide the soundtrack to the book.
What does this have to do with Basement Songs the book? Plenty. If you were a reader of the column when it ran on Popdose, you'll know that I managed to find a way to work music into the narrative each week. I took great pride in managing to do that and I look forward to doing that again.
I hope you'll check back for updates and read the series over the summer.
More to come. I'm excited. Are you?
I'll leave you with this spectacular Los Lobos song I rediscovered while combing through the Malchus archives. I have to warn you, you won't be able to sit down once you start the music.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I just killed a spider, by the way.
Where was I? Oh right, the screenplay.
I dove back in. I obsessed. I took every single not I received to heart and just began... thinking. How do I apply these notes to the script? How can I make the script better?
Plus, I watched about 10 Philip Seymour Hoffman films, began a new podcast about The Americans (maybe you've heard of it, it's called Comrades), wrote some reviews, went to some swim meets (my daughter is an awesome swimmer, by the way; don't tell her I said that), wrote this year's Great Strides fundraising letter, worried like hell when Jacob got pneumonia, did my taxes, and of course, I worked. I think I read something? Long Day's Journey Into Night, that's it.
I could go on making excuses, but this laptop keeps shocking me. That can't be good.
Oh right! I had this idea and I want you to tell me what you think.
I wrote a novel a few years ago and I'm thinking of publishing it on Popdose as a sort of multimedia project. I'm going to do a little revising and reset it in the 80s. Then, like the Basement Songs column, I'll include music in each chapter (if it is applicable).
Thoughts? Let me know.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Or it gets interrupted.
Last year I was some 60 pages into this script and I came up with a new twist for the story. It was just a random "what if" I thought of that not only brought everything to a crashing halt, it froze me up for a good six months.
What did I do in the time while I tortured myself over not being able to complete this one script, a story I've been dying to tell for nearly a decade? I wrote a spec TV script, I wrote countless reviews, I tried to start a new column for Popdose, recorded a weekly podcast, I wrote 3/4s of ANOTHER screenplay, and of course, I tried to be a good father and husband.
When we came home from our holiday trip back east, I was in the shower one morning and the fog cleared. I realized that I had everything I needed to finish writing the original script, and I set off the finish what I'd started.
Today, I printed the first draft of the script. There was no better feeling than holding the 108 pages of my new screenplay.
Finally, a first draft is complete. Finally, I can say I've told my story (or at least started to, depending on how many revisions it goes through). Finally, I can take a deep breath.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
At the heart of the film is Patrick Fugit's youthful face, playing William Miller, a character who is essentially Crowe. The writer/director drew from his own youth, when he was an underage journalist for Rolling Stone, to tell the story of a 15 year old music lover who finds himself on the road with an up and coming band called Stillwater.
Early in the film, William meets his idol Lester Bangs, one of the earliest and most influential rock critics. He's portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, although embodies is a better way to describe Hoffman's performance. There is nothing false about Hoffman is this small but vital role. He has some of the most powerful dialogue in Almost Famous, words for William that would be intended for just about every kid whose ever fallen under the spell of rock 'n roll and wanted to become a writer.
In this scene, Bangs bestows his first dose of wisdom on William. At the end, he gives William an assigment to cover a Black Sabbath concert, a gig that will lead to him to meeting the band Stillwater, falling in with them, and covering them for Rolling Stone.
Later on, after William finally gets home and has to write the article for Rolling Stone, the editors at the magazine have turned on him and William doesn't know who to turn to for advice. He takes Bangs up on his offer to call anytime, leading to this pivotal scene that explains everything we've all felt at some point in our lives.
Crowe couldn't have chosen a better actor to play Bangs. Back in 1999, when I read about the casting of Hoffman in the film, I was so thrilled because here was one of my favorite actors teaming up with one of my favorite directors.
I'd been a fan of Hoffman since he played a dickhead rich boy in Scent of a Woman and followed his career as he continued to take on supporting roles throughout the 1990s. I suppose there was a dream that maybe I could work with this man someday. After all, he was only a couple years older than me and I was so sure I'd be making movies on a regular basis by the time I was 30.
In the late 90s, Hoffman broke through with roles in Boogie Nights, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Happiness, Flawless and Magnolia. He wasn't a "star" per se, but his presence in those films brought a certain weight to them; he somehow made them better, even if they were already great films to begin with.
The same can be said about Almost Famous. It's already one of the finest films about music and growing up that has ever been made (as I told Zack and Will that night), and Hoffman's performance takes a magnificant film and turns it into a classic. At least, that's how I see it.
After Almost Famous, Hoffman continued to appear in ensemble films, always bringing his own gravitas to good and bad movies. His supporting turn in Punch Love Drunk, directed by his longtime friend and collaborator, Paul Thomas Anderson (he appeared in five of Anderson's six features) nearly stole the movie from star Adam Sandler. In 2005 he starred in the independent drama, Capote, a role that won him the Academy Award for Best Acting. He would be nominated three other times, for Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The Master (2012). In between films, he returned to the theater, where he continued to grow as an actor, becoming one of the best.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead this morning, news that shocked me when I read it soon after returning from church. The sad details of what happened have filtered out and it seems as if his addiction to drugs came back tenfold after over 20 years of sobriety.
Addiction is a beast. It sinks its claws into men and women and wipes them of their souls. Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, the beast needs to feed and it slithers around, searching for someone at their weakest and pounces. For those people who manage to fight back the beast and defeat it, it's always in the shadows waiting to pounce again, just when that man or woman is feeling a slip in their confidence, just when they're feeling down enough, or invincible enough to taste the beast just this one time. The beast is waiting because the beast never likes to lose.
The beast won today, and we lost one of my generation's greatest thespians.
More important, the beast took the life of a father, a partner, a sibling, and a son.
Why does Hoffman's death seem to hit harder than any of the other deaths that have happened in recent months? I believe it's because he was a regular looking guy, what Hollywood likes to call a "character actor." He was "honest and unmerciful" in everything he did, whether it was epics like
Cold Mountain, piercing dramas like Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, or mainstream blockbusters like The Hunger Games:Catching Fire. Although he didn't have marquee good looks and didn't "open" movies, Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the "uncool," who'd made it big and continued to give hope that we could make it one day.
With his death today, a little bit of that hope went away.
Fuck the beast.
Friday, January 31, 2014
I did it.
Now I'm back. I'll be posting again, giving you insightful little tidbits about life and all that other shit. Happy now?
In the meantime, Here's a link to the second to last Disturbed Podcast for this season of American Horror Story. Please check it out!
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Let's get back into this, shall we. Let's lay it on the line, put our hearts out there, and tell it like it is. 2014 has rolled over on us and here it is, the middle of the month, and I've been married for 20 years, I have a teenage daughter one year away from driving and my mom's birthday has come and gone. The long month of December- and it is a long month- is in the rearview mirror and now it feels like maybe, just maybe, we can begin to move forward with the new year.
Friday, January 3, 2014
3 AM alarm to wake us up. Check.
3:20 snow shoveling to make sure we can get out of the driveway. Check.
4 AM departure for airport. Check.
4:20 airport arrival. Check.
4:30 check-in and pass through security. Check.
4:55 bagel and waiting. Check.
The long day of travel has just begun.