Archive for March, 2008

Commentary 1: One

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

While the prologue seemed to write itself in a single sitting, I was at a loss for how to kick off the first real chapter. Two paragraphs in and I was already at my first roadblock. How would I ever write an entire novel?

It was then that I got some help from my younger self.

A few years earlier I had started work on a time travel short story called Paradox Lost. It was done out of boredom and completely written off the top of my head with no planning, and pretty much abandoned not long after it began. Not so coincidentally, it also started off at a bowling alley.

I dug it out of my hard drive, pasted it in, stripped out character names, wrote a quick bridge to connect the dots, and suddenly my word count had doubled.

Other tidbits:

  • Not all of the musical allusions are quotes or band names. Some are slightly more abstract situations. A good example is here, where in summary you could say there was “an old man sitting next to me…”
  • The cute French bartender is a nod to Corinne at the Arizona Bar in Luxembourg, who was promised a mention even though the characters don’t have names. (More on nameless characters in a later post…)
  • You may notice that the lottery numbers changed from the short story to the novel. In both cases they have meaning that can be decoded. The story version is probably easier to figure out and more of a joke, whereas the secret to the novel version is slightly more complicated and definitely has intentional meaning related to the plot. I’ll leave you to figure this out on your own though 🙂
  • While we’re talking about the numbers: Keep in mind this book was started in 2003, which predates the TV show Lost and its famous numbers.
  • Both sets of odds referenced are the real California Lottery Hot Spot odds.
  • My friend Nate used to always randomly say “I’m from the future” in reference to any time travel story when we were in college. The line is here partially for his benefit, and partially to show that the old man has been through this enough times to know that cutting to the chase on his abilities is usually the best approach to gain trust.
  • After reading the first draft, my cousin Adam commented that it annoyed him when the narrator always referred to “his bowling partner” and didn’t address him by name. When I pointed out that Nelson was the only named character he didn’t believe me, as he hadn’t even noticed. But he raised a good point, thus the anonymous bowling partner got a nickname.
  • I had always called my fantasy baseball teams “Bowlingo” after this odd bowling arcade game. This morphed into the more godlike “Bowlingus” for the book. My fantasy team names have also changed ever since.
  • “…following Bowlingus into his Olympus” is one of Jon Mack’s favorite lines.
  • There are 19 known musical references in this chapter.

Read Chapter One Online

Commentary: Prologue

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Ok. Here’s the long awaited debut of the chapter by chapter commentary posts. Let me start at the start, then take it away…

Once I decided to write a time travel novel, the first idea to be brainstormed was a character going back in time to save his relationship with the one that got away. He’d basically keep reliving their courtship and give himself a do-over any time he screwed up. I’d actually written a couple of pages of notes on this concept before I realized that I didn’t want to write a romantic comedy. (I’m also glad I didn’t go this route since a year later the movie 50 First Dates came out, and this concept would essentially be that plus time travel.)

It struck me that it would be more interesting if this “fixing” had already happened and not gone so well, and the book was really about the aftermath. The last piece to the puzzle was making the motivation less selfish by moving the mission from himself to his sister.

From here I took about 3 weeks to brainstorm and outline, then dove right in. Wrote the prologue in one sitting in a little over two hours. It came a lot easier than I expected, and actually didn’t change that much from first draft to final. Some additional lyrical references were accumulated over the years, but the only major change was to be more coy as to what the “bad thing” that happened between Nelson and the Sister actually was.

Other tidbits:

  • The “sister” does not represent my real sister, hence the note on the copyright page.
  • Thanks to early reader Kathy Legendre for pointing out the difference between fiancé and fiancée, sparing me the embarrassment of a typo in sentence number four.
  • Of the 18 intentional lyrical references in this chapter, 4 of the first 5 are from the band Carter USM. This was primarily for my own amusement, as well as for Jon Mack’s benefit since I knew he’d be my only guaranteed reader once I got to Luxembourg. Carter was (and still is) our favorite band.
  • The “too erratic of a speech pattern” line is a reference to something a girl really said to me once.
  • The general concepts of “overprotectiveness” and “boy who cried wolf” are thinly veiled apologies that some readers may pick up on.

Read the Prologue online.

iPhone Version on TextOnPhone.com

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Attention iPhone and iPod Touch users: Timely Persuasion is now part of the catalog at TextOnPhone, a special eBook platform with 25,000+ titles.

To check it out, visit www.textonphone.com from an iPhone or iPod Touch.

After registering, click on the “Featured Authors” button near the bottom. As of today you’ll find me on the third page of authors.

It’s iPhone only, so regular browsers will just see a landing page. They do have a Facebook App that emulates the iPhone version on a desktop, and there’s always the official HTML version of the book too.

Origin Story

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Back from my trip and ready to kick off the series of behind the scenes and commentary posts.  But before we go chapter by chapter, it feels like a little more detail on the origins of the project would be appropriate.

I alluded to the “Maybe I’ll write a book” quote in the first post.  Here’s the expanded version:

July 8, 2003.  iNetNow, the rollercoaster of a startup that I poured my heart and soul into for 4 years finally kicked the bucket.  I was told first thing in the morning the investors pulled the plug and we’d be shutting down midday.

Wow.  It was over.  I didn’t know what to feel.  We’d had some stressful periods where we almost went out of business but always managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat.  But this time I felt oddly at ease.  BoRyan heard the news and swung by to talk about it.  We reminded each other of the “do not resuscitate” pact we made after the last near miss, and we both knew it was time to move on.  (To this day I don’t know if we really could have saved it again, and if we could have I don’t know if I regret this decision to not even try, but that’s another story…)

Before digging in to plan the shutdown, I jotted off a quick email to my buddy Jon Mack in Luxembourg who had watched the ups and downs from afar for all these years.  Our thread over the next 90 minutes sealed my fate.

———————————

Me:  Looks like we’re finally going down for real today…

Him:  About time.  What are you going to do next?

Me:  Drink and complain 🙂  Seriously?  Dunno.  Take some time off.  Maybe I’ll write a book.

Him:  Come to Lux, do it here.

———————————

When I threw out the “maybe I’ll write a book” line it was completely off the cuff and mostly in jest.  I loved writing, had a degree in screenwriting and it was the reason I moved to LA.  But I quickly got disillusioned with the lack of control over a finished product a screenwriter has, and then my trial by fire in the startup world took hold and I just didn’t have any time to write.  But now I did, so it seemed worth it to at least give it a shot.  Maybe I wasn’t kidding.

The next couple days were a bender to detox from the workaholism of the previous 4 years.  I was sad to see iNet go, but at the same time a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  People I used to work with commented on how I was more relaxed than they had ever seen me before.

Could I really write a book?  My short attention span and penchant for procrastination and distraction might be my undoing.  But my mind kept coming back to Jon’s email.

“Come to Lux, do it here.”

This just might work.

I gave him a call to check in and ask if he was serious.  He said he was.  His take:

“It’ll be great.  You can sleep on my couch for free.  You can write on my laptop during the day, and we’ll go out at night and go to other countries on the weekend.  You won’t know anyone, most of the locals don’t speak English, the TV and radio are in French and German, and the internet connection is slow as shit.  You’re a good writer.  Do it.”

I told him I’d think about it.  (Interesting aside:  We recounted this tale while on the Florida trip last week, and Jon confessed that he was actually joking with the original invite to Lux much as I was with the “I’ll write a book” comment.  But we both called each other’s bluff and the rest fell into place.  Weird how things like that happen.)

What would I write about?  The wild tale of iNetNow was the first logical choice, but I felt too close to it and wanted to distance myself.  What was I passionate about?  Bowling.  Baseball.  Time travel.  Music.   Hmmm…

(To be continued)

Paperbacks & Vacation

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Word on the street is that paperbacks are starting to arrive in people’s mailboxes. Great to hear that the pool of “readers” is about to move past the original handpicked dozen or so who read the early evolving drafts. Very exciting times as I wait in eager anticipation of some candid reviews.

I’m heading out of town tomorrow for a Red Sox spring training bachelor party in Florida and don’t know if I’ll be able to post from the road, so the blog may be quiet for awhile. But who has time to read a blog when they have the real thing in their hands? 😉

Once I get back we’ll start in on some chapter by chapter commentary posts. I was hesitant to start that too early so as not to be spoiler heavy before people had a chance to get started and know the baseline context of what I’m talking about, so this vacation is probably a good thing.

But it will be somewhat of a working vacation as well. I decided to print up some promotional postcards from VistaPrint.com pointing people towards the Red Sox related deleted scenes. I guess we’ll soon see if Time Travel and baseball go together…

Here’s a sample of the postcard. I was pretty impressed with the quality of the print job (click for full size):

Timely Persuasion Red Sox Teaser Postcard

Until next time, happy reading.

Original Ideas

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

When I made my little joking reference to Lost in the launch post on Friday, I hadn’t actually watched the most recent episode that had aired the night before.  (We time shift and are usually a couple days behind.)  So when I got around to watching it on launch night, I was surprised to see that it was such a heavy time travel episode. I was especially floored by one scene in particular, where two time traveling characters are screaming while a doctor asks questions and gives one of them an injection.  It seemed a little familiar…

Upon starting Timely Persuasion almost 5 years ago, I wanted to do some non-traditional things with the story and especially the genre.  I’ve loved time travel for as long as I can remember, but I’ll be the first to admit it gets a little cliched from time to time.  Not wanting to fall into that, I tried to alternate between paying tribute to my favorites while adding a new spin. This gave me the energy and drive I needed to get through the first draft in 6 weeks, then repeatedly gave me heart palpitations for the next several years when time to work on the book was non-existent and other stories kept stealing my thunder.

Below are some examples; I’ll try to be somewhat vague since I know most of you haven’t actually had time to receive your copy and read it as of yet.

  • In the film The Butterfly Effect, the protagonist time travels just by thinking about it and willing himself back there, which is something I’d never seen before. He also uses a diary as an impetus for these thoughts, which was something I considered before abandoning it early on.
  • Hiro Nakamura from the television series Heroes is another one able to will himself back in time via thought, though not quite as accurately as he would like. He also had an encounter with his future self, formerly a big time travel no-no.
  • Dan Vasser from the short lived series Journeyman also had a familiar self encounter where he gets into a knockdown-dragout fistfight with his past self. He also inadvertently changed his son into a daughter due to the butterfly effect of one of his time trips.
  • On Lost, not only did Desmond have his flashes last week, he also took possession of his past body in an episode during season 3.
  • Scariest of all was the original trailer for the Denzel Washington film Deja Vu. It had me in a panic that I’d have to heavily revise or even scrap TP altogether based on what I thought the underlying premise of the film was going to be. That fear proved unfounded when the actual film turned out to be nothing like the trailer was hinting at. (Random aside: I know I’m in a minority, but I really liked Deja Vu. More on that another time…)

On the other hand I still haven’t found a time traveler who has to adhere to laws of physics quite like my narrator, though I openly admit that some of these rules were inspired by Al the Hologram from Quantum Leap. I’ve always thought he had the sweetest time travel deal of any character ever created (all the glory and none of the danger), though they never really explored or even addressed that on the show.

Don’t misinterpret the above thoughts. I’m not bitter, and I don’t feel slighted or robbed or that I should go out and make a stink and sue over stolen ideas. It’s just not in me, and besides copyright law doesn’t really allow for it. I guess it just goes to show that given the same concepts and ingredients any idea is obtainable. It’s just a matter of how your mind works, how you assemble them, and what you use to get there.

PDF for Read an eBook Week

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I’ve added a half price PDF version of the book to the Lulu store to complement the free online html edition for the tech savvy in the audience.

There’s also a free, password protected PDF version available this week only in honor of Read an eBook Week. What’s the password? Clues are available in the read me file included with the download. Why a password? It’s no fun if you don’t have to work for it at least a little bit :).

Free, Password Protected PDF available March 2 – March 8 only.

(Thanks to my friend BoRyan for assistance with this.)

In related news, I had a couple of responses to my email announcing the book from old friends asking if they could pay something for the free online version. Though I sincerely appreciate the gesture, my thoughts on the subject are on a new page on the official website available here.

Happy reading.