When I was growing up, my parents--especially my mom--had certain expectations about what I'd do when I grew up. She made that crystal clear when I was about 14 when she told me my only choices were becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Since she knew I hated even going to the doctor, this was her way of telling me to back my bags for law school, like it or not.
So you can imagine her reaction when I finished college and packed my bags for journalism school instead. I didn't care about family expectations. I'd interned as a newspaper reporter during two summers during college and loved it, and that was what I planned to do. Writing fed my soul. (Yes, I eventually did go to law school--long story--but I eventually gave up the life of a big-city lawyer and made my way to writing again, as regular readers of this blog know.)
I share this story to help explain why I wrote "James," my next short story to be published. It will appear in Only the Good Die Young: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Billy Joel. The anthology will be published a week from now by Untreed Reads Publishing. The book is edited by Josh Pachter, and also has stories from my fellow SleuthSayers Michael Bracken, David Dean, John M. Floyd, and Robert Lopresti, as well as stories by Jeff Cohen, James D.F. Hannah, Richard Helms, Jenny Milchman, Terrie Farley Moran, Richie Narvaez, and Josh Pachter himself. That's twelve authors, each writing a story stemming from a song on one of Billy Joel's twelve studio albums.
When I heard Josh was going to be doing this anthology, I became a bit pushy, telling him that I wanted in. Thank goodness he said yes. I've loved Billy Joel since high school. We both grew up on Long Island, and though I've never met him, his music has always resonated with me.
One song I especially love is "James," which tells the tale of a kid who grew up wanting to write but who lived with the pressure of family expectations to do something more academically oriented. This is why I told the story about my youth that started this column. While I don't know the real-life man that Billy Joel wrote this song about, I know him in my soul. One question the song "James" asks is if James ever followed his heart instead of doing what was expected of him. In my story "James" I created a fictional version of the man and answered that question.
Only the Good Die Young: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Billy Joel will be available in trade paperback and ebook. One third of the royalties will be donated to the Joel Foundation, a foundation the Joel family began to assist with music education and fund the arts. You can pre-order the paperback version of the book directly from the publisher for the best price by clicking here. For the best price on the e-book, pre-order from DriveThruFiction.com by clicking here.
Do you have a favorite Billy Joel song? I'd love to hear what it is and why.
But before I do that, a little BSP. I'm over the moon to share that my story "Dear Emily Etiquette" won the 2020 Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine Readers Award, voted on by readers of the magazine. The news was announced yesterday afternoon. It makes me so happy to know that my funny story resonated with readers. If you're one of the readers who listed my story on your nomination ballot, thank you! If you haven't read the story, you can read it on my website by clicking here. You also can listen to me read it on the EQMM podcast by clicking here.