I thought since I was starting a site for my fiction writing I’d start it with the story behind He’s With the Band (HWTB), my very first short story, including who the artists mentioned in the first few paragraphs are.
I’ve loved to read for years, and beginning in the late 90’s I had been asked enough times if I’ve ever tried my hand at writing that I decided to take a stab at it. I had never taken a creative writing class outside of English classes in school but I had read enough books that I hoped I could write stories that people may want to read. One of the most given pieces of advice given to new authors is to write what you know, and I used my own life as a starting point for my writing. Of course I made a point of not writing anything too close to my life, for a number of reasons.
The first thing I started writing was the short story HWTB. After finishing it I didn’t have a clue how to try to get it published so I stuck it in my proverbial bottom drawer where it gathered digital dust for over a decade. Earlier this year I saw the video of a keynote Amanda Palmer gave in Boston in May at the Muse and the Marketplace literary conference called Fear Not the Digital Present. In the speech she talked about just making good art and getting it out there, not worrying about whether people will like it or not. She inspired me to get back to creating things, and since I first tried to get back to writing songs, something I’ve done off and on since the late 70’s. I don’t have access to an electronic keyboard, which is my number one tool for writing songs, so I found writing
music to be practically impossible. I ended up dusting off the short story I had written way back when and seeing if I could publish it myself.
It turns out Smashwords is a perfect vehicle for indie authors. Smashwords is not just an online store where an author can put their stories to be sold, they’re also a distributor for self-published ebooks. Since Smashwords was founded in 2008, over 60,000 authors, small presses and literary agents around the world have published over 200,000 ebooks through Smashwords, making them the largest distributor of self-published ebooks in the world. If you’ve written a story and are trying to find a way to send them out into the world I don’t know of a better, easier way to publish your works than Smashwords. There’s never a charge to publish your work through Smashwords, and they even have a style guide that helps you get your ebook ready to publish a pretty simple task. I am thankful to have found such an easy partner to work with to let me send my literary children out into the world and see if they can make some friends.
Since the late 1970’s I’ve written songs, and being the rocker and good Christian I was (back then) I wrote mostly Christian rock songs. Unfortunately most of the songs I’ve written were never performed since they require a band, something I was never able to put together.
In the mid 90’s a friend renewed a love of classical music and I ended up enrolling in the Longy School of Music to study classical composition. My not having studied music theory sooner ended up hurting me enough that I ended up flunking out of my first-semester music theory classes twice. As a result I left the school after only three semesters because I lost my financial aid, but I did have some bright spots in my time at Longy, including having met some great people. One of the teachers I studied under was Linda Katherine Cutting, the piano teacher I had my second year at Longy. During the course of my piano lessons I learned about her book Memory Slips: A Memoir of Music and Healing. After reading her story I was inspired to write Help Me to Know, a song for everyone who has been through some especially hard
things that has left them wondering if their life has any value.
I dealt with enough depression as a child that I knew how it felt to feel the world might be better without me in it. While trying to compose some music in the practice rooms at Longy I got an idea for a riff that eventually grew into Somewhere Someone Cares, the song that opens HWTB. I’ve never performed that song and while I made a MIDI version of the song back in the early 2000’s it looks like I lost it and other MIDI files I had made of my music. I thought I had saved the MIDI files to CD-ROM but I don’t see it on any of the disks that I’ve brought with me after losing an apartment in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.
The band Omega Glory is entirely made up from whole cloth, and I can say that when I sat down to write HWTB it was never to create a vehicle for my music. The fact that my songs made their way into the story is simply the way the story developed as I wrote it. I can also say the people in HWTB were created out of whole cloth with two exceptions. Brian Worthington, the worship leader from Tammy’s church, is inspired by a worship leader at a church I used to do sound for. I’m not going to identify him by name, but if he reads this and sees that I created a character thinking of him I hope he knows it’s intended as a compliment. My saying that Al is considered a member of Omega Glory is taken from something the worship leader always told me. He made a point to say that as the sound man for their worship services I was as much a member of the worship band as anyone on the platform leading worship.
In addition, Julie Delfino is inspired by a friend of mine in Boston who ran a church’s coffeehouse where I was fortunate to be able to do sound from time to time. She even let me do some of my original music there way back when, even though I had to use MIDI files to back me up. My set was probably one of the worst that evening, but “Julie” let me feel that if I could get a band together she’d love to consider giving us a set. Unfortunately that time never came.
Who are those people?
When I asked some friends to read HWTB one of the comments I heard was that one of my beta readers had no clue who most of the musicians are that I use to introduce the members of Omega Glory are. Let’s see if I can explain why I mention these particular musos. They’re all musicians I loved back in the 80’s and 90’s, and since I don’t know who the current crop of Christian musicians are I didn’t change any of these names. Also Omega Glory is an old school Christian rock band so I ended up liking how the old school Christian rockers’ names in fit the story.
When introducing Gary Blankenship, lead singer and lead guitar player for Omega Glory I mention Phil Keaggy, Bob Hartman and Kerry Livgren as guitar players and Michael Gleason, Greg X. Volz and Matthew Ward as vocalists. Phil Keaggy is such an incredible guitarist he’s been considered one of the best guitarists alive for years, and that was for Christian guitarists as well as others. Phil’s that good. You owe it to yourself to check out his music, especially his work on the double disk live album How the West Was One with Phil, the Second Chapter of Acts and a band called David. Bob Hartman was the lead guitar player for the Christian rock band Petra for most of the time the band were together, and Greg X. Volz was the band’s lead singer from 1980
Kerry Livgren is known both for his work with the band Kansas, and for his solo work and his work with the Christian band AD. Michael Gleason nailed so many vocal tracks for AD it’s amazing that we hadn’t heard much of him before. Bob Carlisle first came on my radar as a member of the Allies, a group that was formed in the wake of the breakup of the Sweet Comfort Band, although many know him for his solo work after Allies broke up. Personally I think he was at his best with Allies, but I’ve almost always preferred rock and roll over mellower music. Matthew Ward is the male member of the contemporary Christian trio the Second Chapter of Acts, but to understand why I compare Gary to him you need to find his solo work, especially Armed and Dangerous. That brother can flat out wail.
I didn’t compare Drew Wallace, Omega Glory’s rhythm player to anyone, and I have to admit that was more out of laziness than anything else. That and the fact that I had written so many words comparing Gary to others I didn’t want to take too much time doing the same for Drew. The other most honest reason is because I couldn’t think of any rhythm guitarists to compare Drew to. Like I said, I was lazy. My bad.
Drummer Steve White gets compared to John Bonham from Led Zeppelin and Neil Peart because those two guys could play the skins better than anyone else. I’m not sure if they ever played more than exactly what the song required, and that’s a lot harder to do than you think. I’d love to see how those cats would handle the bridge of Somewhere because in my head I hear this really amazing syncopated cymbal action on the bridge, and especially in the solo section after the bridge.
Why did I set the concert at the Paradise Rock Club?
To be honest with you I haven’t been to many concerts, despite the fact that I’ve always wanted to go see my favorite bands live. One of the very few shows I’ve been to in Boston was a night of Christian music with (I want to say) the Insyderz, the W’s, a solo male artist whose name escapes me, and Jennifer Knapp that took place at the Paradise Rock Club. That was an incredible night of music, and I’m really glad I was there for it. One of the things I noticed was the fact that the sound board was in the balcony and I wondered why that was since any balcony sounds different from how the main floor would. I took some license with how things are set up from the technical end of that venue, but I’m glad I was able to give the Paradise a tip of the top hat in this story. I was sorry to hear it was closing several years ago, and I wish I had been able to go to a lot more shows there, and not just with
Whose music did Al play during the break and at the end of the night at Café Joy?
We pick up the night at Café Joy with Al playing some music by Servant, a great Christian rock band from Corvalis, Oregon (?) during the break between the sets. Servant was one of my favorite bands back in the 80’s, and I was fortunate to catch them live in Baton Rouge, LA. Their World of Sand album has one of my all time fav Christian rock songs, Jungle Music, partly for the great way they drop in names of other Christian rockers and their albums. I don’t know what happened to Servant but they are undoubtedly missed by just about anyone who’s ever heard their music.
At the end of the night Al plays a little Audio Adrenaline, and they’re still making some great music. If you have a chance you should check them out.
Did I leave out a question you have?
If I did leave it in the comments. I’ll try to answer them the best I can and as quickly as I can.
What’s next for my writing?
Back when I first wrote HWTB I also started a romance novel, but got to chapter eight and stopped for some reason. I had the story mapped out to chapter 25, but I seem to remember throwing the notes several years back as I was trying to cull out some of the stuff I had in storage. A large part of that would have been because I didn’t expect to get back to writing it. I tried to read what I’d written so far and see if I could remember where I was going with it, but all I saw was a chapter referring to 9/11 that made a lot of sense in 2003 but not in 2013 so I cut it.
I need to see if I can remember where the story as going but in the process of reading it I got the feeling that I didn’t want to write a second romance story right after publishing HWTB. I’ll be the first to admit that I used to be an incurably hopeful romantic, but let’s just say that in the last several years I found a cure, especially early this year. While I can probably still write romance it’s not something I’m eager to find in my life now. That story will be picked up at some point, but I wanted to show I could write more than just romance so the novel has gone back into my bottom drawer for a while.
As I was trying to think of what else I could write I remembered an idea for a mystery story I had several years ago and I’ve started writing it. I’m not sure how long the story will be, but as C.J. Cherryh puts it the story will be as long as it needs to be. At some point I’ll put a call our for beta readers so keep an eye for what gets written here to be among the first to let me know you want to help by reading what I write. Those who help will get thanked in the book, and I promise to try not to get your name wrong like I did when I called my friend and fellow author Andre “Eric” at the end of HWTB. Andre is much more like the cool right fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and not at all like a half a bee, an ‘alibut, or even a cat. Although I bet a feline named Eric could be a cool cat. What can I say? I love felines. Always have, always will.