About the Prodigal Band Trilogy: the Main Characters, Part 1

In the previous post and other various posts, I stated that my main characters morphed from a gang or clique of boys in the area I grew up, Long Island and New York City, to rock musicians from England–a decision influenced by, first, the fact that I actually made it into a local band; second, rock music was my main connection to youth culture of my generation (60s and 70s); third, my fave bands of that era–and the most influential bands of that era–were Brits, and I had visited England as well as attended the 1970 Isle of Wight Rock Festival which featured the Who, Traffic, ELP, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix (who died in London a few weeks later) and others of note (some whom I missed since we had to leave early to get the flight back to the States).

That the most influential rock bands of that era were from England was a major reason my fictional band, Sound Untd, is from England. And what band from that era had the most influence on how I constructed my fictional band? Why, the Beatles of course! The so-called Fab Four–whom many claim are the greatest rock band of all time…basically re-invigorated the genre leading the so-called ‘British Invasion’ in 1963-64 as rock music in the States had been, IMHO, flat-lining since the plane crash of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in 1958. One doesn’t need to read the ‘Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll’ books to know that from 1959 until the Beatles, rock was tripe, was cutesy-wootsey, was just ‘boy meets girl, boy ‘dances’ girl’ stuff (and you know what they mean by ‘dance’–having sex, right?), with a few true rock outfits to keep the genre alive (Del Shannon, Dion and the Belmonts, Beach Boys and a few others). Folks, it wasn’t until the Beatles came around–and the groups that followed them–that I had any interest in rock music at all. With the arrival of the Beatles, my world–and the world of my friends–became consumed by listening to the radio and records, reading ‘fan magazines,’ including the British one called ‘Melody Maker,’ and even getting together and pretending we were the Beatles on stage as the Beatles records played on victrolas or stereos (and not just the Beatles, either) in bedrooms or basements. It was this “pretending” to be John or Paul or George that would later give me the idea of learning guitar.

It was the Beatles and the other groups that helped me to grow up amongst my peers and not just be the loner, sort of, that I had been before. Finally, I was able to ‘fit in.’ Finally, I became interested, somewhat, in boys–it would take several years, however, before boys became interested in me. I wasn’t exactly a ‘hot date’ if you know what I mean. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I even thought I was good-looking enough (despite my acne) and finally landed a boyfriend of sorts (whose acne was even worse, but anyway…). Oh, as for my friends–most were better looking than me, and one of them, who looked like the model ‘Twiggy,’ (remember her? And she appeared in the movie ‘Blues Brothers’ as well toward the end), actually had a rock musician boyfriend–lead singer and lead guitar, of course. Another friend also dated once or twice another band singer who graduated the year before I did. And another friend had her band and she could sing like Janis Joplin! So, folks, since I knew I had writing talent since I’d been writing since the age of 8 or so, what better way to get the ball rolling than to write fiction stuff about an imaginary rock band?

But from England…but where in England?

My fictitious band absolutely could NOT be from Liverpool because that’s where the Beatles are from, and because they spoke with one of the weirdest accents on God’s green earth–Scouse. Sing-songy, to the point of crazy (and yes, folks, out here where I live a recent property owner just happened to be from Liverpool). And anyway, no way was my group going to be from where the Beatles were. London? Nope. Several bands, especially the Rolling Stones, were from London and, as with the Beatles, the Stones were prominent enough to where they, too, would be a serious influence on how my band was created. Manchester? A group that hit it huge for about a year, Hermann’s Hermits, was from there, but after a while they just did what I thought was tripe. And it seemed to me that most of these British Invasion groups were from either Liverpool, London, or Manchester.

Another group from another part of England hit it big in the summer and fall of 1964, and this group did some very interesting–and different–music, more bluesy, and with a really, really good keyboard player that really titillated my ears–the Animals, whose first hit was a remake of the Bob Dylan song, ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ Later songs had a bluesy style, such as ‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Bo Diddley.’ I saw them one night on the Ed Sullivan Show, and, after performing, Sullivan started to interview them, and–well, talk about weird accents! Neither I–nor by the looks of it, Sullivan–could understand about half of what they said, but it turned out they were from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which is way up north and close to Scotland. In fact, the accent had a Scottish lilt to it–and that was the fascinating part. Their music, and their accent.

Then, in 1970–and I’ve stated this in a previous post as well–the night before taking the ferry from Portsmouth (I think, or South Hampton) to the Isle of Wight, I just happened to meet three guys from Newcastle, and while one of them was hard to understand, the others were easier–but still, they spoke with that fascinating accent, called Geordie. Several years later after meeting some folks from Scotland, they told me the Geordie accent (and there is a dialect, as well, but I won’t get into that) was very similar to and actually derived somewhat from Scottish. Historically it makes sense: Hadrian’s Wall, which the Tyneside town of Wallsend is named for, was in fact the old time border between England and Scotland. The portion of the county of Northumberland (or Northumbria) north of that wall was part of Scotland off and on for centuries, and was finally incorporated into England in 1744, the days of ‘Bonnie Prince Charley” and that war. And, the more I hear Geordie (YouTube videos and the like), the more I’m glad I chose that area and that accent for my characters in the band.

They come from the fictitious city of Walltown (south of Wallsend on the Tyne river where they build boats and stuff, and east of Newcastle), and the main tourist attraction of this fictitious city is an angelic statue called The Tooters (referencing the horn-blowing angels in the Book of Revelation). Well guess what? Across from Newcastle is Gateshead, and it just so happens that the main tourist attraction in Gateshead is–and angelic statue! (The thing is, it looks more like a bird, but at least it has wings, if not horns). And bear in mind I didn’t know ANY of this when I started writing my book(s)!

Finally, why did I call my group ‘Sound Unltd’? The original name for the group was the actual original name in my books, the Smash. Later, I changed it to ‘Smash Unltd’ (you do realize ‘unltd’ is short for ‘unlimited,’ right?). Two things caused me to change it to ‘Sound Unltd’–one, the fact that a group called ‘Sounds Incorporated’ existed in the 60s (of course, they never made it here), and that spiritual inspiration that came to me in the early 90s. Further, the name Sound Unltd is so ‘pretentious sounding’ that I figured no one would ever call themselves by that name, and so far, no one has–and they better not, since the name exists in copyrighted manuscripts! I do hope I never to lay out a couple o’ hundred dollars to trademark it!

Being a ‘Non-Conformist’ Author: You Don’t Always Have to ‘Follow the Script’

In the mid-1990s I joined a local far west Texas writer’s group called ‘Texas Mountain Trail Writers.’ While working on the first printed novel I would call Battle of the Band, I needed ‘tutoring’ so-to-speak on absolutely what had to go into the novel to make it a legitimate novel, to market and sell the thing–that is, get some literary agent to ‘sell’ it to a big time publisher. No literary agent came a-calling, so I had to do it myself.

And this was what I picked up in all of these discussions and even annual writer conferences, which I will now list:

  1. ‘Show, don’t tell.’ Anyone who writes novels or books knows what this means. And I believe in ‘show, don’t tell,’  but there are times the ‘tell’ part has to be used perhaps  more than some would find acceptable, as I discovered finishing up my first book.
  2. Your setting must be a setting one is familiar with. After all, aren’t most of Stephen King’s novels set in Maine, where he is from? (And why do I always use Stephen King as an example? Because other than literary genius Kurt Vonnegut–from Ithica, New York (quite a few of his books are set in that part of New York state)–no writer has influenced me to write than the best suspense-si-fi-horror novelist in US history.
  3. Your characters must be from the setting you use that must be one you are familiar with.  Not all, but many of King’s characters are from Maine, or at least New England.
  4. Your characters, because you must know your characters–especially the main ones–must be part of you and even as you are. (Characterization)
  5. Dialogue–your characters must speak in a way that characters from a particular setting would speak, thus you must know how these characters would speak, which is why they ought to come from a particular familiar setting. Further, you characters must speak in a way that it is obvious for that character and the reader knows that is how the character talks. Use catch-phrases as well.
  6. Genre–this is the item that has and will give me the most headache. My books are not genre specific, but a mix of spiritual/satire/adult-rated R not X/horror/suspense/fantasy, so that could be why no literary agent touched my books–literary agents tend to be genre specific, or at least that’s what I was told by the first published author I ever met, a romance novelist (with plenty of the required ‘sexual tension.’)
  7. Theme–The only way I can describe any theme in my books is this: good triumphing over evil. If it isn’t ‘good vs. evil’ in fiction, then I am not writing it-ultimately, good vs. evil is the only issue that matters to me.
  8. Plot–Within the realm of the physical and mental and real and spiritual worlds, the plot revolves around an 80s-90s rock and roll band that, upon achieving great success, must choose their good vs. evil path, with triumphs, trials and tribulations along the way. Because they are ‘rock stars,’ they are ‘gonna do what a rock star is gonna do.’ Which is why these novels are adult–sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll–and not young adult or Christian or rated G. Sorry about that, but if my characters are going to be real, they’re just gonna have to cuss every now and then, or engage in free sex–and one of my characters is bi-sexual, by the way.

Did I miss anything?

So, here is where I ‘go off the reservation’ so-to-speak. ‘Show, don’t tell’? Who gets to decide if you I don’t show enough and tell too much? Folks, I have NEVER read a novel without some ‘tell,’ okay? Read JRR Tolkein’s “Silmarillion’ some time…there is so much ‘telling’ in that book that one would think one of the greatest novelists ever couldn’t write a novel to save his life! But of course, he has to ‘tell’ about how the elves and what not came to be, from what heavenly spirits, and the rest. Then you have books loaded with dialogue–in fact, one friend-turned-book-critic once told me that my two printed books had too much dialogue! “Too much telling,” she told me. After all, dialogue is kind of like telling, right? In my opinion, however, nothing SHOWS a character like his or her dialogue, and how he or she says it!

Where I really go off the reservation though is setting, for actual setting and in terms of where the characters are from and how they speak. I intend to fully explain the whys and what-fors of this issue in posts I have already written and just need the right time to post (since I am busy re-typing/re-writing my two printed books for e-book formatting purpose for sale on Kindle, Nook, Lulu, etc). But for now I will sum it up–since my characters are in a rock band of the 80s and 90s, and since I grew up in the 60s and 70s when British rock reigned supreme for the most part (beginning with the Beatles), and since I spent about two months there in mostly the southeast (Brighton area) and also met three twenty-somethings from Tyneside (Newcastle, of course) and I just loved hearing that Geordie accent… Okay, you get the idea. But just to make it a bit easier for me to deal with creating these books, roughly half of the settings in all my novels are in the US, either New York City or California between LA and San Fran. I grew up on Long Island and lived in NYC. I have visited southern and central California and know several folks from there  (and my brother and his family used to live near Silicon Valley). A number of supporting characters are Americans. Finally, for the most part, my Brit rocker characters spend most of their time in the most affluent part of England, which just happens to be the part of England I am most familiar with–the southeast, including the affluent county called Surrey. Thus, one really cannot accuse me of not knowing the settings and the ways of speaking (though I do use slang words every now and then that are more American than Brit, and one big mistake I made originally in the printed books was listing the dates American style instead of Brit style: instead of writing ‘the 15th of July’ I wrote “July 15.’ Or used the term ‘called’ instead of ‘rang’ on occasion…any slang terms I screwed up in my first two books will be rectified, I hope, in the e-books.

Finally, as I will explain in my posts that will be posted as soon as possible, my entire life generally does not ‘follow the script,’ and I’ve been for the most part a non-conformist my entire life.

The Prodigal Band Trilogy: The Spiritual

Moving on to the spiritual aspect of why I wrote these books…

In the fall of 1993, at night with the myriad of star-shine visions outside the house at night in the mountains, a view of the heavens, thinking some divine entity was hovering above, a thought came into my head, in my own voice, telling me that now was the time to begin to compile all the character and theme and setting and story and all the stuff I had carried in my head since the mid-60s. The time to write the novel was nigh….

Since I was raising a toddler daughter at the time, I had limited time to do this work, but I managed to get the rough draft manuscript done by the summer of 1994 only to have to go back to work teaching secondary math–in El Paso, in what was then a ‘gang land high school’ and put up with not only gangster students but a principal that couldn’t handle gangster students (the ONLY time I noticed serious discipline in the hallways was the one week this so-called principal was at a conference in Washington, DC! During that week, the assistant principals and security guards were actually able to do their jobs, and not one student of mine tried sneaking out of class or wanted to roam the halls…the only time this happened!) After the kids went to bed at night, when I wasn’t grading tests or whatever, I edited the rough-rough-rough draft. I quit the teaching job in June, 1995.

That summer I began the actual rough draft on someone else’s Macintosh computer, from 6 am until 8 am, when I had to go back home to home school my kids. In fall of 1995 I bought my own Mac computer with System 7.5. When I had time, I finalized the first novel, Battle of the Band, which was completed in 1996–after a writer/retired teacher friend of mine Beta Edited the novel twice.

And what she told me through her proof-reading/editing caused me to think maybe divine intervention WAS at work in this first book:

Read the rest here.

Download the FREE The Prodigal Band PDF e-book here.

The Prodigal Band Trilogy: The Why, Part 5

In Part 1, I stated why I became a writer-story-teller. In Part 2, I stated why the characters I made up were a gang and then a rock band. In Part 3, I stated why the rock band morphed into one from England, and in Part 4, why they were from northeast England, where the initial setting would occur. Now is Part 5, discussing the various changes I made over the next twenty or so years from 1970 until the final version of the first novel in the series, Battle of the Band, was published, that set the stage for the next two books, including the FREE PDF of The Prodigal Band.

Read the rest here.

Download the FREE PDF The Prodigal Band here.