Thursday, February 28, 2013

Four Days


This incredible journey we've been sharing over the last few weeks is very nearly coming to a close. My Kickstarter project for Roller Disco Saturday Night is on the verge of wrapping up, and I remain as astounded and humbled as I was last year, when y'all helped me get my first novel, I'm On Fire off the ground. I thank you sincerely, once again.

Here's what's happened: I've already taken April off of one of my jobs. Signed. Approved. Month off. I will be spending much of that month as a bohemian with a laptop, carving out my little world and my little people as intricately as I can. I envision staying up late Friday and Saturday nights, at some coffee shop in the city or at home gunning Red Bulls, up till 3:00 AM trying to get one more chapter done. I want to push myself to get the best work I can out of this novel. I almost want to punish myself in the name of fiction. When I was younger, I thought of how the great writers worked, at least in terms of myth: feverishly, eyes blazing, maybe drunk or maybe flying high, pounding on the keys of their typewriters to make magic.

Well, I don't drink and I don't do drugs, so I have to let enthusiasm suffice. Well that, and my three standards for creativity: ambition, drive, and caffeine.

Writing is hard. Anyone who says it isn't is a liar. But it's fun, too, and the rewards are a thousandfold. Keeping my sanity in check is a big part of why I keep doing it. And your constant, unexpected faith in me? That's a bonus.

There are four days left in this thing. We close up shop on Tuesday morning. If you haven't donated but want to, you still can. If you have and want to increase your funding, you still can. The prizes are still out there - the digital copies of my books, the personalized poems, the getting your name in my book - and they'll be achievable right up to the end.

I'm so incredibly happy with this whole process. You're all terrific people, and deserve the best happiness.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Super Mega Disco Fantastic

It is with a humble heart and a sense of great humility that I come to you with this message:

!!!WE DID IT!!!

Oh my God, guys. So, last night I'm at Starbucks, alternating between my Finance Sorta job and going full-bore research on a book called Stephen King Limited when I got the alert that someone had pledged ten dollars. At once, I went to thank them ... and that's when the outpouring began. Within minutes, folks were donating $50, $75, more - lots more. After Starbucks, I stood outside at the bus stop in the freezing cold Boston chill, my hands blocks of ice, typing to one of my friends to assure him that, yes, he could up his donation if he wanted to.

And on. And on.

My far-flung hope with Roller Disco Saturday Night was that people would care enough about the project to get me just past the goal. It was initially with some trepidation that I settled on the amount (then added $100 for expenses). In the darkest recesses of my cynical soul - and believe it or not, I do have at least some cynicism, especially when it comes to my history with publishing - I knew, knew, this would not work out. I would become another Kickstarter statistic. Fun while it lasted, but it was too much to ask for a weird book with a silly title.

But it wasn't.

Folks, here are the things I bring to the table: faith, inspiration, tenacity, ambition, and drive. I have been writing novels since 1999 - close to 15 years - and only now are they finally getting some interest. I have, what? Eighteen books in my time as a novelist, not to mention a whole bunch of short stories and a crazy number of poems. No matter how much I kept not getting published, I never stopped writing. Ever. Well, there was that one time I had writer's block, but it didn't last. It never does.

As I said yesterday, a lot of what makes a sustained writing career is luck. When I got laid off from my job, luck (and a whole raft of Stephen King book reviews) brought me to the attention of my publisher, who then discovered that I not only wrote well, I also wrote fast. I've been with them since 2009 because of those things, and I haven't let them down yet. Last year, they e-published my short story collection This Terrestrial Hell and my poetry collection, Surf's Up. So they're doing good by me. But in the time since I started with them, I got a real job. And another. And another. And then I took over as producer of sketch comedy at ImprovBoston. Then I decided to direct. And act, sometimes. Then there's the column I write for, one or two a month. All that's good - it's amazing. I am pretty much living the life I want to live.

But it's hard on fiction. When you're writing nonfiction about a subject you love, knowing that you are guaranteed money for it, it becomes easier for that to rise to the surface. Made-up people and their made-up problems have a tendency to get lost in the morass. Plus, the longer you work on a book, the more you start to doubt. I have a huge problem second-guessing the structure of my books. I'll stop in the middle because the structure isn't working, and I'll get to work re-organizing it, and then at some point, I'm an architect, not a writer, and I abandon my books. Both Tangerine and American Storm were victims of that, and my current novel, My Agent of Chaos almost befell the same fate early this year before I realized that I was repeating the pattern. Now that book's almost done, the first wholly original work of fiction I've completed in 3 years.

Roller Disco Saturday Night started off life as a NaNoWriMo novel. I wrote a chunk of it in a month, got past my goal, and then froze. Painstakingly, over the course of the next year, as I was working other jobs, I completed the first draft. Right now, it's not bad. Parts are. And there's these abrupt character shifts and tonal shifts and all this other stuff that just weigh the book down. What I need is to be able to shake off some of the other stuff and fully concentrate on making Roller Disco the best book it can be. Ruth, Seth, Oliver, Barry, Don, and Charles - the six teenagers at the core of my book - are depending on me to make them live. And now I can.

This doesn't mean the Kickstarter has ended, however. We still have 10 days, and all those rewards are still valid. You can still make your way into my book as a character name, you can still get the anthology I'm compiling, you can still get yourself a personal poem. Every penny donated will continue to help me fund my writing time to get this book written faster and better. I appreciate ALL your support.

Of course, if you're sick of me, you can also throw money at a project I'm donating to, a student film called Writer's Block. The daughter of a good friend of mine is the DP and editor on the film, and I'd love to see it take off. If you want to also help make this happen, give money here:

And if you still want to help fund my dreams, my ambitions, my faith, and my drive, once again check out Roller Disco - and my manic video starring me being hyper - right here:

Thank you ALL!

Love, Kev

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Because of My Writing

As I sit and write, my Kickstarter project passed the $2000 mark.

This is mind-blowing, for a number of reasons. Primarily, it's that knowing friends, acquaintances, and even some strangers have faith that I am a writer of worth, and want to work to help build my dream.

Secondarily? One of my major stumbling blocks in getting published has always been my lack of confidence in hyping myself. I was really, really bad at it, to the point that it became a subplot in one of my novels. Working as a producer for a night of sketch comedy, where you have to relentlessly plug not only your work but the work of others, I've gotten better.

I couldn't do any of this, though, without support in a lot of ways beyond the financial. A director at my theater, Sasha Goldberg, offered to film, edit, and produce my promo ad. Major supporters Scarlett Litton and Scott Barrett have been undauntingly aggressive in retweeting and getting the word out. My buddy Jeff Covello came up with the brilliant idea of offering a personalized poem to anyone who donates $50 or more. And on and on.

Kickstarter's whole mission statement is grassroots efforts in getting creative stuff off the ground. Its base statement is all about a community getting together and making things happen. I have several communities: Comedy, Disney, Stephen King, Drive-By Truckers, Springsteen, and more - and ALL of them have rallied to get my name out there and my project funded. I am blessed to know you all.

It's a weird dream growing up, wanting to be a writer. At some point early on, you realize that lightning doesn't generally strike in this field. It's a lot of hard work and a lot of dashed hopes, and luck plays a significant part in you getting famous ... hell, getting read. Careers like Stephen King are well-documented because of their rarity. Some of my favorite writers, like William Goldman, were never household names (even if everyone knows the movies The Princess Bride and Marathon Man). I got kicked in the balls early on in my career by having my agent and my publisher drop me on the same day. (To be fair, my first novel was a weepy little slice of dick lit that works better as catharsis in the wake of my break-up than it does as a story.) By and by, things got easier. The right assignments started coming when I needed them the most - a month after I was laid off, and my severance had dried up. And on. And on.

I was in therapy a few years ago, and one of the most important breakthrough moments I had was in realizing I didn't have to be Stephen King to be a real writer. It's not that I shouldn't chase a dream, it's that I shouldn't be chasing HIS dream. Mostly because he's someone else and I have my own path to forge, but more prosaically because publishing in the 2010s isn't like publishing in the 1970s. The midlist has all but disappeared. You're either a rampant success or you toil in obscurity. Mostly.

Right now, I'm toiling. It's not bad. I've got a few contracts, I write nonfiction books about my favorite writer, I have a sweet gig doing a column for a horror website. It's not bad. It's not rampant success, but it's all right.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it's nice to get a little break. My friends, my readers, my supporters are all giving me that break. Thank you for that. All of you.

It's called Roller Disco Saturday Night, and it's about who I was in high school, and about who I wanted to be at the same time. Donate if you can. Spread the word if you can't.

Love, Kev

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"It's Based On Grease 2 ... Sorta."

Folks, I now have a VIDEO of me hyping the Kickstarter for my novel, Roller Disco Saturday Night! I ... may be just a touch hyper. I may also have chugged a Red Bull just before this happened. Either way, world of yay!

Let's keep it rolling, folks! I am 56% funded and we only have 12 days left! WHEEE!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why I Wrote Roller Disco Saturday Night

Here’s why I wrote a book called Roller Disco Saturday Night:

There’s a longstanding tradition in fiction of modernizing classic works of literature. Steinbeck did it with the story of Cain and Abel with his East of Eden. Annie Proulx brought King Lear up to date with A Thousand Acres. Heck, Stephen King started his career by bringing Cinderella into the horrifying 70s with Carrie. It’s a noble pursuit – the best stories never go away, they’re just retold in different, sometimes more interesting ways.

But one of the things that always struck me was that all those modern works were taking on good, established pieces of lit. From where I stood, no one said, “Hey, let’s take something obviously crappy and try to make some gold out of it.” That’s where I came in. More importantly, that’s where Grease 2 came in.

In my novel Maybe You’re Right, I go on and on ad infinitum about this one scene in Grease 2 where the movie seems to stop and realize it can be good. Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield are in a diner, just having a conversation. It’s a well-shot scene: everything looks bright and beautiful. There are double entendres, but they’re not gross and obvious, like in most of the film. They have chemistry for the first time in the movie, which is sad for a film for which a whole subplot is chemistry. It’s well-written, well-acted, well--lit. Everything about this scene belongs in a better movie, because right after it, the movie goes straight back to crap.

I realized that I could write that scene – or something similar to it – into a better piece of fiction. I started thinking about both Grease and Grease 2, and that whole 1970s and 1980s obsession with the 1950s, and how I might be able to use that. Then I started thinking about my own 1980s experience – about my obsession with the smart-kid sitcom Head of the Class, and the show You Can’t Do That On Television, and how I had weird crushes on Alan Alda and Steve Gutenberg when I was young. I thought about my first real sexual experience, and reading the book Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, about a struggling family who suddenly becomes rich. And I thought about all those nights spent at the Silver City Skating Rink in Taunton, Massachusetts, skating that big oval to Skid Row’s “18 and Life” and “Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”

All of that into the book, which started off life as a National Novel Writing Month project. It’s one of those books whose title came to me before I started writing it (it actually came to me years earlier, during an improv show in which we were supposed to call out the name of a fake movie and they would create scenes around it. I shouted out “Roller Disco Saturday Night!” every week and they never picked it. I think I was trying to rectify that, too). The book started strong, got tough in the middle, and then got way darker than I’d intended in the final stretch. It’s a glorious, ambitious mess, and needs a whole lot of love before I can get it right for publishing.

My publisher, Cemetery Dance, has offered to publish my work – even the non-horror stuff – as an ebook, but the problem with fiction is that it’s chancier than nonfiction (at least the nonfiction that I write), and I don’t get any up-front money for something like this. And there’s nothing wrong with it being a labor of love. I’ve written 18 novels, directed numerous shows, acted in shows, and remain producer for a night of sketch comedy – and they’re all labors of love. In general, I don’t see a cent out of that. (Contrarily, I work a day job where I move numbers around on charts and I do get paid for that. Not well, but I do get paid. The world is a mystifying place.)

I’m trying to raise capital so I can take time off from one of my many, many jobs and work on getting Roller Disco Saturday Night up to fighting shape. It’s a book of memories – some good, some bad – and I’d like to do right by my past. I’d also like to make sure it’s compelling and entertaining for anyone who isn’t me and hasn’t lived my life. And I’d like to do it by October.

Last year, you guys helped me get my first novel, I’m On Fire, published. This year, if you can help at all, I’d really appreciate it.Writing is my life, and publishing is a big part of that. I have a large, busy existence, and getting the time and tools to make Roller Disco a viable reality would be the best possible platform from which to leap. I'm already off to a kick-ass start! Let's keep that rolling!

Thank you all, you are awesome.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Disco Fantastic

Last year, you guys helped me raise the money to take some time off of work and get my novel, I'm On Fire, written, edited, and ready for publication. Let's do it again!

Writing novels is hard work for anyone, and it's even harder when you work 6 jobs and you're writing because you love, not because it pays well. My publisher has agreed to publish Roller Disco Saturday Night as an ebook, but as with my last book, I'm not getting an advance, and royalties are a far-flung dream of the future. Here's where I need your help:

In order to fire up this new project, I'd like to take a month (or two) sabbatical from one (or two) of my jobs, so I can focus my energy fully on getting Roller Disco up and running. The hardest part is that first month - once the novel gets going, it'll run on its own steam. But in that time I need off of work, I also need to stay afloat, and ahead of the curve as much as possible.

I'm currently working on three other writing projects, as well - nonfiction work that will be paid on delivery. Shuffling those projects around to make room for a novel is also a financial decision that impacts what I'm doing.

On Roller Disco Saturday Night: it's a coming-of-age story set in the late 1980s, when there were still video arcades and teenage girls (and boys) could legitimately still have crushes on Alan Alda. It's a time of great upheaval for Ruth Rose and her five friends, as they enter high school and everything about their small-town life is about to change. A novel about the discoveries, adventures, and upheavals of young people as they try to hold back adulthood for as long as possible, Roller Disco Saturday Night is sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, and always disco fantastic.

So, there it is: no advance, no payment on delivery, and a hope for royalties somewhere down the line. Fiction is hard, but I'm hoping you guys can make it easier.

Thanks for supporting my dream!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Heaven Can Wait

Halfway through my friend TC’s memorial service, I think, No, wait, this is unfair. He’s my age. He’s my friend. This is ridiculous. You don’t have a memorial service for someone who’s my age and my friend. Cut it out, everyone, there’s obviously been a mistake.

It’s not a mistake.

I got the call on January 11th. It was almost a comedy. I was at the gym and missed Deana’s call. On the voicemail, she’d said something about TC, so I ran upstairs to call her. No answer. I called TC. His girlfriend Gillian picked up and told me to call Deana. Meanwhile, Deana was calling me back, popping in on the other line. The pancreatic cancer had done its worst. TC wasn’t expected to make it through the weekend.

I hung up and just stood there for a long while. People went by me. No one stopped. No one put their hand on my shoulder and consoled me. They had no reason to. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on except when it doesn’t.

The service is great. My friend Mark is in for the weekend and he’s surprised … yet not really surprised … that the thing will have a performance aspect. I was never surprised. We are theater, after all. We are this theater.

Gillian’s sister sings “Alfie” and breaks. TC’s son comes on stage and makes everyone laugh. Actors and actresses who have performed TC’s songs in the past take the vast stage and try to approximate what it was to inhabit his music. Kara Gelormini performs a song…

Way back at the old theater, TC and Adam Brooks put on a show called Ladley & Craig. It was brilliant. The songs were written and rehearsed in advance, but the show itself – something like a Behind the Music for theater, looking at this performing troupe through the decades – was improvised. The tagline of the show was “Music to Love By,” and I did. I didn’t miss a single show back in those heady days, and after the last performance, the whole cast signed sheet music for my favorite song, the Hindenburg dirge, “Oh the Humanity!”

But Kara’s song weekly brought a tear to my eye. Step left, step right, and dance in place again. Tonight, I am overcome.

Everyone’s here. It sounds diminishing, a little, but it’s just the truth. Everyone is here. People I haven’t seen in years. People who I used to watch perform all the time, before I was a director and a producer, when I was just an ImprovBoston fanboy. Friends. Actors. My buddy Josh is here from California, and when I see him I am reminded how much I miss him, especially on stage. There’s a slideshow of TC moments playing on the gigantic screen above, and I’m pretty sure I took one of those pictures: TC at karaoke, doing that thing where he’s holding his ear that I always thought was so adorable and actory.

So, this obviously isn’t real, right? It’s can’t be real. We hung out. This isn’t like going on Facebook and reading that a friend of a friend’s great-grandmother has died. It isn’t even like when my great-grandmother died. Nana Burke was old, old. And it’s not like when my ex’s best friend died, although I went to his memorial when I was 18 and it ruined me then. Al had AIDS. When I met him, I knew that. That was a known quantity. This … I fucking knew him. We did stuff. We ate pancakes and did a duet together a few times, and he sang Meat Loaf songs and he was my friend. My friend. My friends don’t die until we’re way older. This doesn’t happen. This can’t happen.

This is happening.

Greg Wymer, DJ, wrote to me days before the memorial and asked me to give him like five or six songs that TC liked to sing at karaoke. Well, “Bat Out of Hell,” of course, and “Town Called Malice,” by The Jam. Oh, and “Oh! Darling,” by The Beatles, which Gillian also sang during one of hers and TC’s few Rosebud Karaoke nights. When they play “Oh! Darling,” that’s the moment I first break entirely. Shawn is next to me and holding my hand. Mark touched me on the back. I am surrounded by my friends and the people I love with one exception. It’s a big exception.

Gillian sings and we all lose it. A big song from TC’s play, What the Dickens? A sing-along to Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” It’s funny. We’re all singing. We’re all having a good time, because seeing everyone like this, it’s impossible not to. Everything’s great. Everything’s awesome. Except it’s fucking not.

I cram food into my face and for once don’t judge the smokers. Some people are drinking. Some people have to perform tonight. I keep hearing songs I recommended to Greg and on the stairs, I see Emily Holland and I grab her and can’t even get words out. I bet she’s freaked out. I wish I hadn’t mentioned all those songs, because it’s Way Too Much. And I keep thinking, when I go, will this be the type of thing I want? Yes. Sure it is. But I don’t want to go. And I don’t want TC to go. Because he was my friend, and I loved him. I love him. I miss him.

I really miss him.

Step left, step right, and dance in place again.