Archive for the ‘Behind the Scenes’ Category

Kurt Cobain + Time Travel = 3 Books

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Fun fact:  Searching for Cobain time travel on Amazon yields 3 results:The Drawing of the Three

Lost in the ’90s by Frank Anthony Polito — A teenaged rocker stage-dives during a ’90s themed dance and wakes up in 1994.

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman — An essay collection featuring unrelated sections on time travel and Kurt Cobain.

Timely Persuasion by Jacob LaCivita — A rock and roll time travel tale about a music critic trying to save his sister.

Discounting Klosterman (who I love, but isn’t directly relevant here), I was pleasantly surprised to find Lost in the ’90s. I’d never heard of it before, but immediately purchased it — and really dug it too! Not only had someone else decided to revolve a time travel story around a cultural red-letter-date, but they did so with a lot of other interesting overlaps to the way I handled things in Timely Persuasion.  Song titles as chapter titles, lyrical allusions, musician fathers, and even bowling (!!!) pop up in both books.

I reached out to the author and he agreed to do a joint interview around our mutual inspirations.  So without further adieu, here’s Frank & Jake’s timely & persuasive take on being lost in the ’90s…

FAP:  Hey, there! My name is Frank Anthony Polito. I’m a Detroit-based writer and Lost in the ’90s is my first YA novel — though you don’t have to be a Young Adult to enjoy the story. In fact, you may appreciate it even more if you actually grew up in the 1990s.

JL:  Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m not a young adult anymore, but I did grow up in the ’90s and can say you are spot on that it does help you appreciate the book.

People on this blog likely already know me, but in case you’re coming in for the first time via this post my name is Jacob LaCivita. Timely Persuasion is a rock and roll time travel novel I released in 2008 — though the bulk of it was written back in 2003. You don’t need to be an obsessive music fan like me to get into the story, but as Frank said about his book it may give you some added appreciation.

Let’s start off with the most timely question with the 20th anniversary upon us:  Why Kurt Cobain in a time travel tale? You nicely weave this throughout on a few different levels and have the bulk of the story set during those fateful days in early April 1994; my narrator tries to save Kurt as soon as he realizes what he can do…

FAP: Well, I hope this doesn’t come as a shock, but… When I began writing Lost in the ’90s I didn’t intentionally set out to include Kurt Cobain in my story. I’m a very realistic writer in that I write fiction that is fact-based. Based on my previous publishing experience, I figured (best case scenario) LIT90s would hit bookstores sometime in 2012. That said, I counted back 18 years in order to calculate my protagonist’s birth year — which took me to 1994. When I researched what was going on in the world that spring, I was reminded of the death of Kurt Cobain on 4/5/94 and voila!

JL:  That’s interesting.  I had many similar “count back X years and research” moments while plotting Timely Persuasion, but Kurt Cobain was there from the start.My standard answer to the “If you had a time machine…” question has been “find out how Kurt Cobain died” for as long as I can remember, so I knew I had to explore that in Timely Persuasion. I was 17 when Kurt died, and it hit me pretty hard at the time.  The Tom Grant murder theory started to gain press at about the same I discovered the Internet.  I became super obsessed with it right away. I’m not really a conspiracy theorist in general, but I’ve always been fascinated with unanswered questions. The hardest part in the writing process was figuring out a way to leave the suicide/murder question unanswered while still using it to explain the rules of time travel and give deeper insight into the narrator’s character.

FAP: Again, I hope this isn’t a shocker, but… Back in the day, I was not much of a Nirvana and/or Kurt Cobain fan. I didn’t find the music (or Cobain) attractive or interesting. In fact, I kind of sort of hated it (him). I was more into the music scene that had come out of Manchester (The Sundays, The Charlatans UK, etc.) Now that I’m older (and wiser), in doing research to write LIT90s I was happily surprised to discover that I honestly didn’t get Cobain back in 1994. I didn’t realize how ironic his lyrics were or what a supporter of gay rights he was, and how often he was misunderstood by his peers — something to which I could totally relate. Now I really wish I could go back in time to the early ’90s because I would totally change my tune. 

JL:  Like many ’90s teens Nirvana was my gateway into music I could call my own, but I really dug the British music scene too. The Manchester bands you mention were great (don’t forget the Happy Mondays!), along with new britpop revolution led by Blur & Oasis. Plus my favorite band to this day is still Carter USM — and not so coincidentally they have the most lyrical references in TP.

Sometimes I wonder if the love of the Beatles instilled in me by my parents paved the way for that. Which leads into another interesting overlap our books have: protagonists who meet their parents back in time.  In both cases they are surprised to learn that their father is a musician and decide to teach him some tunes… 

FAP: When my father was in high school he played guitar in a band — which is actually how he met my mother. As a kid, I was always fascinated whenever he would drag out his Fender and plug in the old amp and crank out some Black Sabbath. I can’t say that I based the parental characters in LIT90s on my own parents, but I knew that I wanted my protagonist and his father to have a musical bond. I was also a big time-travel geek growing up (Back to the Future, Voyagers!, Somewhere in Time), and I always enjoyed whenever someone from the future would teach someone from the past something and they would try to take credit for it.

JL:  I was also (and still am) a big time travel geek. I knew I wanted to write a time travel novel, but I had a few options on what the main plot would be. A so-so musician going back in time and finding fame by stealing music was one of my initial ideas.  Sort of a parable about the digital music industry. But I didn’t think I had enough for a full novel and scrapped it. Then somehow this story sent the narrator into the 1960s to meet his Dad (which wasn’t in the original outline), so I revived that older idea and ran with it.

FAP:  My idea for LIT90s came from an obscure “After School Special” called My Mother was Never A Kid, based on an obscure book by Francine Pascal (Sweet Valley High) called Hangin’ Out with Cici. In the story, a teenaged girl travels back in time from the 1970s to the 1940s where she meets (and befriends) her mother, who she doesn’t get along with in present day. And of course the aforementioned Back to the Future.

JL:  At the time I was excited and surprised nobody had done a time travel story that stole music from the future. And even though I included a number of Back to the Future references, it wasn’t until years later I realized that the Marty McFly “Johnny B. Goode” bit counted. Duh… 

FAP: Yes! This is exactly what I’m talking about… That moment when Marty is playing “Johnny B. Goode” with his band and that other guy is on the phone with his cousin, Chuck Berry, and he’s like “Listen to this!”

JL:  Classic moment. And tying it back to Kurt Cobain, there’s an episode of The Simpsons where they parody it by having “Marvin Cobain” call his cousin Kurt after hearing Homer’s band play grunge at a Lollapalooza type festival…

Sticking with music, we both also seem to weave little known “real” songs into the plot. I’m guessing “Basement Ghost” is by someone you know based on a few Googles, but I might be wrong.

FAP: You are correct. “Basement Ghost” was written by a friend of mine, Gabriel Grady. I have my MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon, and I knew that I would eventually adapt the novel for the screen. Because music is such a part of the story, I wanted to make sure there would be an original song for the soundtrack. I knew that Gabe — being a Class of ’94 grad and a musician himself — was totally the guy to write my movie’s theme song. Now, if I could only sell that screenplay…

JL:  I could totally see LIT90s as a movie. Or maybe even an “After School Special” if they ever revive that concept…

It was especially impressive that you managed to make “Basement Ghost” a downloadable single to go with the book.  I wanted to do something like that but wasn’t ever able to find a musician to work with. It was always my secret hope that putting “Won One” in Timely Persuasion would nudge my college roommate into re-recording it for me (I lost my old cassette copy years ago). But it’s been over 10 years and the song still only exists in my memory and in my book.  And I still dig it way more than he does.  (Chris Evjy, if you’re reading this that was a not so subtle hint :))

FAP:  Again, the credit for this goes to Gabe Grady. It also helps that Gabe was in a band at the time I published LIT90s, and he was looking for promotional opportunities for himself and his work as well. I’m a firm believer in the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours…” theory of life, and in helping others along the way, if possible. The great thing about “Basement Ghost,” I will say, is that I told Gabe the basic gist of my story (how boy meets girl) and he ran with it. The lyrics and subsequent music are all to his credit.

JL:  Another item we share along the lines of great music-themed minds is using song titles as chapter titles. Yours are all great ’90s tunes that often aptly summarize the action.  What gave you that idea and how hard was it to pick the songs? 

FAP:  In my first two novels (Band Fags! and Drama Queers!) I did this same thing — only with ‘80s tunes. While LIT90s isn’t part of the trilogy, I wanted to continue using this technique, especially since music plays such a part in the story. In terms of choosing which songs to include, I have to say “Thank God for the Internet and Wikipedia!”

JL:  Originally Timely Persuasion didn’t have chapter titles. Then one night I woke up at 2am with this idea that every chapter was a song title that contained a number.  It would start with “One” by U2.  Just a single word so nobody realizes what’s going on yet. Then “Two of Us” by the Beatles. Then “Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. And that’s when I jumped out of bed and made a huge list of candidate songs — first from my iTunes library, then falling back on the Internet like you did.

FAP:  That is an awesome idea! (I wondered where you came up with “Tram #7 to Heaven” by one of my faves, Jens Lekman.)

JL:  Jens is one of my favorites too. “Tram #7” plus “Wounded Kite at :17” by Pavement were the two titles that made me so giddy I just had to find a way to make this work. And later figuring out I could slot “Won One” in as #11 sealed the deal.  Hardest one was for 26 — it’s the only song I don’t like in the list. “Across 26 Winters” is a cool title and fits the chapter, but with apologies to Phoenix Mourning it’s not really my style.

Of your titles I especially liked “Fade Into You” & “Divine Thing.” And of course “Here’s Where The Story Ends” was the perfect ending…and it happens to be by another British group.

FAP: I’m particularly fond of “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star myself. I really think the song sets the tone for this particular chapter. “Action” is such a big component when it comes to film and, if memory serves, this chapter is almost all inner monologue for the female character as she rides along in the car with the two other guys in the story. I look forward to seeing how the scene would play out on the big screen — like an old-fashioned MTV music video.

JL:  Along with the musical nods taking the reader back into the era, I really liked the way you sprinkled references to other time travel stories throughout Lost in the 90s — and not just Back to the Future. Time travel seems to pop up all over the place. I’d never heard of Hangin’ Out With Cici before, but I do remember that time travel episode of Family Matters and liked the Somewhere in Time reference too.

FAP: Thanks. Like I said, I was a big time travel story geek growing up. And no surprise that you’d never heard of Cici — which most would call a “girl” book. I’m actually surprised that you know Somewhere in Time which is set in Michigan where I grew up, and I’ve somehow managed to reference in almost every story I’ve ever written.

JL:  I told you I was a time travel geek too! In TP my narrator sees a movie trailer for Peggy Sue Got Married on his second trip back in time (before he realizes that’s what’s actually happening). I picked it as a hybrid music & time travel reference — though it was totally one of those “need a movie from 1986” research happy accidents along the lines of how you picked Kurt Cobain for LIT90sBTTF & Quantum Leap are where my love of time travel came from, so I felt it only fair (and polite) to tip my cap to the greats.

FAP: Kudos to you, sir! I appreciate your appreciation of the greats who came before us 🙂 I’ve seen Peggy Sue, but only once (years ago!) and I don’t really remember the plot. I also didn’t watch Quantum Leap for whatever reason. But, as I’ve mentioned, there was a time travel show back in the early ‘80s that I loved as a kid called Voyagers!, starring Jon-Erik Hexum, whose career was tragically cut short after he accidentally shot himself in 1984. If you haven’t seen it, you should totally check it out.

JL:  Yes, I like Voyagers! too. And the Omni is one of the coolest time machines, right up there with the DeLorean and the Tardis.

Anyways, this was pretty fun. Anything else to add in closing?

FAP: Thanks for finding me and making this happen. It’s been almost 2 years since LIT90s was released, which in book terms makes it “old news.” My goal was to do a big publicity push to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death… But having worked in the New York City publishing industry as a book publicist, I know what a pain — and how futile — it can all be. Here’s hoping we both will find some new readers.

JL:  Indeed. We write books so people can read them, right?

Anyone interested in learning more about either Lost in the ’90s or Timely Persuasion can check out both of our books below for a trip down memory lane via April 8th, 1994:

Fester Commentary

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

The Coachella Lineup announcement reminded/inspired me to work on the long delayed commentary for my “Fester” short story. I’ll use the same bulleted stream of consciousness format from the old series of Timely Persuasion commentary posts.

Warning:  Some of the below contains minor spoilers. If you haven’t read “Fester” you probably don’t want to read the commentary just yet. “Fester” is available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstoreBarnes & NobleDieselSony, or Smashwords.

First the background & origin story. “Fester” is a chapter in a novel about jury duty I’ve been writing on and off (mostly off) for the last few years. Working title is Duty Calls, though sometimes I think Jury’s Out might be better and other times I think both of those titles are lame. So TBD, but for simplicity I’ll keep calling it Duty Calls for now when needed.

That said, “Fester” as a standalone has nothing to do with jury duty whatsoever. Concept was to do an ode to Coachella-esque summer music festivals. A road trippy adventure that turns into a comedy of errors around getting there, getting beer, and getting home.

Why do a standalone? That was never really the initial plan, but one day TP fan Scott Schnaars sent me a Facebook message asking when my next book was coming out. I didn’t have a new novel ready, but that got me thinking as to why I couldn’t start chunking out Duty Calls as one-offs when each story reached a logical conclusion. Could serve to both build demand for the real deal and allow an avenue for reader feedback — much like I promised a couple of critics I’d consider on future works. Felt like a win win all around, and here we are.

On to the proper commentary:

  • Much like what happened when I was writing the first chapter of TP, I wasn’t sure on where this music festival story should start. And much like what happened with that chapter of TP, my past self came to my rescue. I had written a short story called “Wrong Number?” based on a real life incident involving many calls from a mysterious international number. Felt like a great answer to a “why are you late today?” question so I made some modifications and ran with it as the intro.
  • Back when we were in high school, the last 4 digits of my friend Jon Mack’s number used to spell “BOYS.” Shawn’s number spelling “COCK” was half based on that, and half on the referenced Jeff Tweedy monologue.
  • I couldn’t resist the subtle LOST reference with the “We have to go back!” line.
  • I am a firm believer in the rules around not listening to the band you’re seeing that night beforehand and not wearing the shirt of the band you’re going to see.
  • The list of bands Bobby introduces Shawn to are mostly earlier projects by artists who later became more famous either in a different band or solo. I also included a few easter eggs of bands my friends have been in. (Which may someday satisfy the same criteria of early bands by people who became more famous later…)
  • The Handoff is an unfinished screenplay I wrote back in 2001 or so. I’d send it in serialized format to my friend Nate Pepper for feedback, mainly to motivate me to keep the story moving. He’s the only person who will get the deeper meaning of the reference besides me. I re-read it for the first time in ages a couple of months ago and was surprised by how much I still liked it.
  • The state police really did shut down part of route 95 leading into Lollapalooza one year, which led to a similar parking lot party on the freeway.
  • The spilled beer on the lap was something that happened to me in college when I was a passenger on a late night drive from Syracuse to Boston in my friend Farley’s car. My spill was coffee rather than beer, which was a bit worse…
  • In high school I knew some people who often used the Moscow Symphony Orchestra ticket trick to get into shows at clubs in Providence. It was amazing how rarely the ticket taker noticed that the ticket was for the wrong event.
  • I first encountered “scrips” at Jack Johnson’s Kokua Festival in Hawaii, and to this day I still don’t really understand the purpose.
  • The wordplay with the bolding and the exclamation points about the loud band is one of my favorite parts.
  • “Cacophony of controlled chaos” is one of my favorite phrases. I’ve used to to describe Nirvana for as long as I can remember (and used those exact words to do so in Timely Persuasion), but a quick Google seems to show the phrase isn’t as original as I had thought. At least I still seem to be the only person to have written that phrase while referring to Nirvana in Google’s wide-reaching eyes.
  • I don’t remember if it was the same Lollapalooza referenced previously, but I did once accidentally leave Jon Mack at Lollapalooza in Rhode Island, inspiring the ending here. We had many Jo(h)ns in our circle of friends, leaving Jon Mack with the nickname “Jon Jacob Left At Lollapalooza.”
  • Because “Fester” is a small part of what is intended to be a much longer work, we’re left with quite a few dangling plot threads. Though it’s somewhat subject to change, right now I know (or think I know) that the mysterious phone calls, Doug’N Donuts, The Handoff, Bobby’s bookie & hooker, the girl Shawn meets at the festival, and the impact the events of “Fester” have on Shawn & Bobby’s relationship will all be explored further in the larger Duty Calls novel.

Fester Cover

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

After utilizing the wonderful artwork by Jose Roberto for the cover of Timely Persuasion, I opted to go the do-it-yourself route for the “Fester” cover.

My original idea was to take a photo of a pile of “scrip” tickets, a normal concert ticket, and a paper bracelet all scattered on a lawn alongside a ringing cellphone with the title on the phone’s caller ID display.

Assembling all of the props without turning it into an advertisement for phones or beer or bands or clubs proved difficult.  The “title on the cellphone screen” thing also seemed a little too ambitious for my amateur skills.

With the idea still on bounce in my head, I found myself at the final Friday wine tasting of the summer at Barnsdall Art Park with a handful of drink tickets.  I whipped out my phone and took these photos:

The pile was in line with my original concept, but on a total whim I decided to arrange the tickets in the shape of a letter “F” — and realized I might be on to something.  When I got home I typed out the rest of the title and cycled through fonts until I found one I liked…

…which by total unplanned coincidence ended up being the Rockstar Font Project Wichita font by Chank Diesel based on the handwriting of Mike Doughty.  (Guess I dig what I dig.  And I honestly think it looks even cooler here than it did as Local Boy’s writing in TP…)

And there you have it.  But wait, there’s more!

Recently I’ve been fascinated by The Book Designer Blog.  He’s been doing a monthly eBook cover design contest for a little over a year now.  Proud of my handiwork (hacky-work?), I decided to enter the Fester cover into the September edition for consideration.

I didn’t win (nor did I expect to), but I was flattered to be called out as a favorite by both of the individual design winners in the comments.  Special thanks to Kit Foster & Matt Hinrichs for the vote of confidence, and to Joel Friedlander for the opportunity to participate in (and learn from) such a great contest.

3:11pm, 311s Day

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Someone bought a TP eBook via Smashwords at 3:11pm on 11/11/11.

311s 311s

I’m easily amused…

Smashwords, eBooks, iBooks

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Smashwords.com manages the eBook distribution of Timely Persuasion to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony, Kobo, and Diesel.  They handle the format conversion and distribution, which is huge.  I probably could handle the conversions myself, but it’s so time consuming it wouldn’t be worth it.  (I did my own formatting for the Amazon Kindle edition, and though educational it’s not something I’d want to do again multiple times.)

I really like the straightforward, no-nonsense approach Smashwords takes to everything they do.  The site goes above and beyond to make sure everything in the process is well explained, and the occasional update emails from founder Mark Coker are heavy on facts and devoid of marketing hype.  It makes his informative messages “must read” when they pop up rather than the typical “What do they want to sell me now?” spam that most companies utilize.

A great example of this style can be found in the following presentation:

While we’re on the topic of Smashwords, it feels like an appropriate time to share my favorite guerrilla awareness technique that they helped facilitate by putting me in the Apple iBookstore.

Whenever I’m near an Apple Store, I use one of the display iPads or iPhones and launch the iBooks app.  Then I use the button in the upper right hand corner to visit the store and download the free sample of Timely Persuasion.  Now when anyone else plays with that same demo devices there’s a chance they’ll see TP.

Of course I know they aren’t going to read the whole thing in the store and even having them remember it is a long shot, but every little bit of awareness helps.  And when you have an army of fans, friends, and family doing the same thing, over time it can add up.

(And if you’re a fan, friend, or family member reading this…thanks! :))

Mike Doughty’s Hand(writing)

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Had a couple of recent questions about the font on the setlists in the paperback, which caused me to realize I never blogged about the origin of that in any detail. Could have sworn I did, but a quick scan of the archives proves otherwise. Here we go:

Once upon a time a designer named Chank Diesel put together something called the Rockstar Font Project. He basically took handwriting samples from musicians and turned them into fonts.  Participants included Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing, Kelley Deal from the Breeders, Steven Drozd from the Flaming Lips, Mark Sandman from Morphine, and Everlast from House of Pain.

Being a big Soul Coughing fan I downloaded the Mike Doughty “Wichita” font shortly after it came out, messed around with it for 10 minutes, and then forgot all about it since I didn’t really have a practical use for it. (Origin story in Chank’s own words is available at WBR.com)

Mike Doughty's Handwriting, Ghostwriting for Local Boy

Mike Doughty’s Handwriting, Ghostwriting for Local Boy

Flashforward a decade. While working on the remastered layout of Timely Persuasion with Bryan Davidson we hit upon this idea of doing the Local Boy setlists in a handwriting font.  Originally we tried the Apple “Marker Felt” font, but it felt sort of cheesy and overplayed.  I suddenly remembered Wichita, and miraculously managed to copy it over each time I switched computers over the years.

I emailed Mr. Diesel regarding permissions and he was super cool about it, as was Mr. Doughty when I let him know of his inspiration.  And there you have it.

While we’re on the subject of Mike Doughty, check out his amazing new album Sad Man Happy Man.  I know this sounds odd coming on the heels of my Benji Hughes post, but this is another of those rare, expectation-defying albums I just can’t get enough of.  Beats out Dark Night of the Soul for my album of the year crown, and when the newness clears might even give Skittish a run for its money on the “best album ever” front.

Quantum Commentary

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Finally got around to posting my 5th place entry from the fan fiction contest at Leap Back 2009 to the extras section of the main site.

“Just Like Starting Over”

It’s called “Just Like Starting Over” (you knew I’d go with a song title…) and serves as a bridge between the beginning and the end of the series.  I haven’t done the commentary thing in quite awhile, so here we go…

  • Fans tend to have a love/hate relationship with the final episode of QL.  Some are disappointed that Sam never made it home.  Many dislike the esoteric nature of any answers the finale provides.  I’ve always considered it to be brilliant, and probably the only way they could have ended the show.  But one day I decided the only other way to end it would be to send Sam back to right where he started.  Sort of a Twilight Zone-ish “Did it happen or not?” type of ending.  That was the inspiration for this story.
  • With the concept in hand, playing with the old saga cell narration for the opening sentence was quite obvious.  “Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator…and nothing happened.”
  • “Around a hundred by his best count, maybe a few less” is a nod to the final episode count of 96. (Though technically there are a few episodes containing multiple leaps, which would put the count just over 100.)
  • It was fun including Gooshie and Beeks as main characters here since they were oft-mentioned but seldom seen on the show.
  • Sam not remembering if the events of “The Leap Back” took place in 1998 or 1999 is an acknowledgment of a minor continuity gaffe.  In this episode they say the date at the project is 9/18/99, but then in the following season during the “Lee Harvey Oswald” episode the date is referenced as 2/14/99 — pre-dating “The Leap Back.”
  • The reader is supposed to think Sam leapt in as himself a split second after his initial leap, but this would mean that Tom Stratton should be in the waiting room at the project.  His absence here is a clue that the timing of the leap in this story is not exactly as it seems.  Verbena’s question to Sam about why there isn’t anyone in the waiting room serves as a hint.
  • Including a reunion scene with Donna & Sam was something I considered, but in the end I felt that I didn’t really know her character enough to do it justice.  Instead she just gets a minor cameo reference here to up the “is this real or not” ante.
  • Seeds for the ending are planted when Al relays this message from Ziggy: “She also says she’s sorry she called you crazy, and forgives you for triggering her override function.”
  • A big speculative Internet question regarding the ending of QL asks whether or not Al would still be a part of the project after Sam kept him together with Beth.  I try to tie up that loose end here.
  • It still shocks me that nobody has made an iPhone App that emulates the QL handlink.
  • This story was written prior to the debut of the “Leap to Di For” fan-film, but the parallels to how Sammy Jo restarts the project and how Al has trouble maintaining the connection are pretty neat.  Great minds…
  • I loved referencing the words of Al the Bartender here in a prophetic, foreshadowy sort of way.
  • For the grand finale the story switches to the present tense, recounting a prequel of the minutes just before our first look at the accelerator chamber in the QL pilot episode.  We end with Gooshie’s famous “he’s leaping” speech that kicked off the main premise of the show.

ARG(hhh!) Again, Naturally

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Here we go again.

Back in November I wrote a post that detailed my small brush with infamy related to DarmaWantsYou.com.  This week saw the stars align for another 15 minutes of fame that felt worthy of revisiting.  The rough timeline:

February 29, 2008
Timely Persuasion is released.  The book includes 2 hidden easter eggs into a mini-ARG.  These go undiscovered for quite some time.

July 30, 2008
Kick-off of the official DharmaWantsYou ARG in between seasons 4 and 5 of Lost.  I accidentally typo the site when trying to visit it and get a page not found, which inspires me to register it myself as a good samaritan.  The intent was always this: “Hey, wrong site.  Here’s the real one, plus a shameless plug on something that might be of mutual interest.” This sets the series of events detailed in this post into motion.

May 1, 2009
Email from GoDaddy reminding me that DarmaWantsYou.com would be expiring in July.  I hadn’t touched the site since linking to my in-game Dharma questionnaire, which no longer existed since ABC took down the site of the original game.  With the content now somewhat pointless I decide I’ll most likely let the registration lapse in July.

May 16, 2009
With some time on my hands for the first time in ages, I check out my website stats and notice that DarmaWantsYou was still getting 30-50 hits per day even without a “real” site to point people back to.    With a little bit of traffic and a couple of months before expiration I thought it made sense to do a minor revision:

  • I changed the sub-header from “Has There Been An Incursion On This Site By The Hostiles?” to “What Lies In The Shadow Of The Statue?”
  • I killed the dead link to my time travel Dharma quiz from the defunct “real” game and replaced it with this:

Although Dharma is no more, there are other Initiatives…

study.LB-DG.com

The link points to the Timely Persuasion easter egg/mini-ARG that’s been up since the book’s launch in February of 2008.  My logic was that if people were looking for an ARG I might as well point them to something similar rather than leaving them with nothing.

Traffic to study.lb-dg.com went through the roof!

Traffic to study.lb-dg.com went through the roof!

May 18, 2009
Unbeknownst to me, a new Lost ARG called “Who Is Simeon Hobbes?” was on the verge of starting.  (Note:  This new ARG has since been revealed to be fan made and not canon.  Still pretty cool though.)  Someone discovers the LBDG study page with the password protected PDF and thinks it’s in-game despite the “I registered this page because of a typo” intro.  It hit Twitter, and things started to skyrocket from there.

So to be clear:

  • I’m not part of an official Lost ARG.
  • I’m not part of this fan-made WISH? ARG; nor did I intentionally try to hijack it.
  • There is a mini-ARG type thing embedded in Timely Persuasion, and the password protected PDF, the questions, and the word “Nelsonification” all tie back into the plot of the book.
  • The book is pretty good if I do say so myself 🙂

Props to user Jesus_Stick at the Lostpedia forums for figuring out the nod to John Titor in the LBDG logo, and to South for catching the Carter USM references in the questionnaire. Nice work!

PS: One last note, in regards to this at the LostARG blog:

PLEASE be especially aware of the lb-dg one, it asks you to send off a questionnaire with money.

The $1 I ask for at the bottom of the PDF isn’t a scam and isn’t intended as a money making scheme.  It’s actually there to discourage people from mailing the questionnaire back to the PO box, as I don’t really have a use for it.  But if someone does happen to send me a buck, they will get something of equal or greater value in return.

Cover Me: The Art of Jose Roberto

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

One of the most common questions I get regarding Timely Persuasion is about the cover artwork.  Where did it come from?  How does it relate to the plot?  Is that you in the picture?  I was surprised to realize I haven’t told that story on this blog before now.

The original painting

The original painting

Way back in June of 2005 I stumbled onto a (now defunct) surrealist art website based out of the UK called the Hammond Gallery.  It turned into an extended Internet time wasting expedition as I got lost in the site and spent a couple of hours browsing the various paintings and artists they had listed.  I was particularly fascinated by the work of an artist named José Roberto.  And when I saw a piece of his entitled “Lost In Time,” I immediately stopped and said “That should be the cover to Timely Persuasion.”

I loved the title for starters.  The clock played nicely with the time travel theme.  The floating, egg yolk face about to drip off the table could symbolize what the narrator was experiencing.  (It also inspired the narrator’s “new look” in the alternate present when I rewrote parts of that scene to resemble the cover art.)  But what I loved most of all was the shadowy man of mystery off in the distance towards the upper right hand corner, who in my mind has always been the old man standing at a distance while observing and influencing the whole series of events.

Modified Book Cover Version

Modified Book Cover Version

Unfortunately the email address for the artist on the Hammond Gallery site was invalid.  Google searches for his name proved elusive as well.  (Today his website is the first hit for his name, but that wasn’t the case in 2005.)  Eventually my wife managed to track him down via a Google Groups reference to his SketchPet.com project/business.

José turned out to be a very kind and generous guy in addition to a wonderful artistic talent.  He granted permission for me to use “Lost In Time” as the book cover and even sent me a slightly modified high res file that allowed some extra room at the top and bottom for the title and author credit while better fitting the dimensions of the paperback.  I can’t thank the guy enough for being so helpful and down to earth.

You can check out José’s paintings, sketches, and digital works at his website, jmrcreations.com.

(Be sure to check out an original sketch of “Lost In Time” in his second gallery of sketches.)

Huey Lewis & The Anachronisms

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Stumbled onto a neat section of the HLN.org Huey Lewis Wiki today that features a full “gigography” of every show he’s ever done.

However, this also led me to the entry for 1986.  Which means that this…

Walking over to retrieve the golf ball, I stopped when I saw the signature on it.  Huey Lewis.  I’ve had this ball since 1986, the year of my first concert.  After a year of constantly playing the Back to the Future soundtrack, my uncle took me and my sister to see Huey Lewis and the News.

…is inaccurate since Huey didn’t play much in 1986, and didn’t play anywhere near the east coast of the USA.

When writing that scene and during rewrites I searched high and low for an actual concert date to base it on but kept coming up empty.  I’m guessing I found reference to one of the Texas shows and assumed he was on a full tour at the time.  At least I take some solace in the fact that this Gigography has only existed since October of 2007.

Still wish I had caught it though, as I like grounding the story in reality to contrast the time travel surrounding it.  Perhaps I’ll just blame it on an unreliable narrator…

(I’ve updated the Chapter 3 Commentary to reflect this.)