Archive for June, 2008

Jurors for Department 307

Monday, June 30th, 2008

(Apologies for the off-topic post, but thought this might be my best option for getting the attention of my fellow Turner vs. Chevron jurors.)

I finally finished reading Infinite Jest.  Took far longer than I expected, mainly because it takes some getting into and I also read Timely Persuasion at least 5 times as part of the editing process at the same time.  Final verdict:  Glad I read it, but wish it hadn’t left everything hanging at the end of 980+ pages and countless footnotes.

I’m currently working on a new novel about jury duty.  Though not about our case per se, it is definitely inspired by 6 weeks worth of waiting together in a hallway before, during, and after the action of each day.

Stay tuned…

Commentary 21: Now We Are Twenty-One

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Flashback to the future where everything started with the old man in this mythology heavy chapter. I really like the concept of the evolution of time travel covered here.  And crazy as it sounds, part of me actually believes in the underlying “constant, subconscious messages from your future self” phenomenon that powers the time travel we see in the book.

Other tidbits:

  • The Oasis concert with the shoe throwing really happened, though the origins are fictionalized.  I was there, but I didn’t throw the shoe.  The most amusing part of that real life incident was after they refused to play anymore, Liam Gallagher came out and read the remaining songs on the setlist to the crowd so we would all know what we could have heard if not for one bad apple.
  • We learned previously that the Nelson/Sister meeting was the fault of the narrator, but here we learn just how much of his fault it really was.  This was planned from the get go, and I have a ridiculously overcomplicated spreadsheet plotting out the different timelines it took to get here.
  • Since the old man’s divorce from the redheaded girl “indirectly forced him to sell his body to this experiment,” it seems he didn’t really have a lot of time leftover to have a second wife.  Why does he call her his “first” wife then? Hmmm…
  • We reveal that the strange scene outside the bar at the end of Chapter 11 happened because the older mind was in possession of the younger body.
  • There used to be a quick allusion to the fact that Donald P. Bellasario was a subject in this experiment and that’s where he got the idea for Quantum Leap, but based on the year of the experiment and his age it didn’t make a lot of sense.  Thought about having it be his son who joined the experiment, but since nobody knew about the father clause I decided not to.  Looking back, now I sort of wish I had.
  • A larger subplot involving the doctor interacting with his older self was dropped due to complexity, but it is still hinted at here and there and set up in this chapter.
  • The time travel theory on how one can more easily ride a memory back in time based on how many people share that memory was loosely modeled after the BitTorrent file sharing protocol.
  • There are 32 known musical references in this chapter.

Read Chapter Twenty-One Online

Commentary 20: 20ft Halo

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Deja vu…or is it?  We’ve come full circle…or have we?  The answers start to come in the next chapter, but the stage is set in this short interlude.

Other tidbits:

  • We lead off with a scene very similar to the quick hospital trip at the end of Chapter 10.  The major difference this time is the absence of the syringe and the inclusion of a bulky, blood sucking time machine that has a slightly different effect than what we’re used to.
  • The old man finally returns.  What took him so long?  He had to walk coast to coast from his starting point in Los Angeles.  How is he still relatively close to ground level after walking 3000 miles?  He blinked several times along the way, and has perfected his ability to a point where if he’s below ground he can sort of jump and blink ahead a day while airborne, thus getting himself on even footing.  So long as he’s trying to get higher it will work, but if he needs to get lower he’d need to return to the present first.  The downside is he’s crossing a lot of days off of the calendar based on the “only one trip” rule.
  • Could father and son exchange objects while time traveling?  I don’t know, they never tried. 🙂
  • Remember the meeting in Chapter 6?  “Suppose we were involved in the discovery of time travel, using people as lab rats in a slew of experiments…”  That quote suddenly isn’t so hypothetical anymore.
  • When the young narrator speaks in song lyrics, they are always from 2002 or before since this is his “present.”  When his older counterpart does the same thing, occasionally the lyrical snippets come from further in the future.  “Selfish and sad” is an example of that here, as was “This time you got it” back at their very first bowling alley meeting.
  • A big piece of the time travel puzzle is revealed here: “Generally speaking you’re protected from paradox while displaced in time.”  In layman’s terms, it means that the grandfather paradox can only kick in once you return to the present.  If you go back in time to kill your grandfather you won’t immediately cease to exist, but as soon as you return to the present you will.  The universe gives you a chance to fix what you’ve broken so long as your changes haven’t yet been “committed” to the timeline.
  • There are 19 known musical references in this chapter, the lowest total since way back in Chapter 8.

Read Chapter Twenty Online

Commentary 19: 19-2000

Friday, June 20th, 2008

In real life, I finished up the previous chapter just before what was supposed to be my first date with the woman who is now my wife.  Ended my Luxembourg writing day on a high note, saved everything, and gave her a call.  The conversation:

Me: Hey, how’s it going.

Her: Not bad.  Are you ready to hang out tonight?

Me: Definitely.  Should I head over to your place or do you want to meet somewhere?

Her: I don’t want to anymore.

Me: Um, ok.  Some other time?

Her: No.  I’m just going to stay home.  Bye.

So instead of a date, I went to Jon Mack’s dart league with him, listened to a bunch of Nine Inch Nails and Guns ‘N Roses on the way, and woke up the next morning with a big Bofferding hangover.  (And as most people from Lux can attest to, you ain’t had a hangover until you’ve had a Bofferding hangover.)

That was my mindset at the start of this chapter.  The story is hilarious now in hindsight, but not so funny at the time.

Other tidbits:

  • The tan van appears again, and we’re headed back to the mysterious hospital.  The point of the van is mainly just to show that his hospital/study seems to always exist, regardless of time or place.
  • I had heavy duty writers block at the start of this chapter.  The Rorschach ink blot test was something I did online to kill time and decided to integrate it into the story just to have something to write about.  It led to the LBDG inkblot inspiration, so the exercise ended up working.
  • Originally the narrator requested a Town Spa pizza for his meal, but I cut it under the “no names” rule and to stop sounding like a commercial.  But it is so good…
  • “Oh, excellent” is a little shout out to my old roommate Bryan Davidson’s college catchphrase.  Bryan went on to do the layout for the remastered edition of the book.
  • The section with the card games was also a block breaking exercise, and originally was far longer.  Again the stunt served its purpose though, as it led me to find the extra card and open the door for the return of the old man.
  • Interesting that this is chapter 19.  Like a score of 19 in cribbage, I don’t have much more to say about it. 🙂
  • There are 27 known musical references in this chapter.

Read Chapter Nineteen Online

Remastered

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Yesterday the new “remastered” paperback edition of Timely Persuasion went live.  How do you remaster a book?  Read on…

The first version was a complete do it yourself project with the exception of the cover art that was graciously donated by José Roberto.  The text was laid out in Microsoft Word using Times New Roman.  It looked pretty good to me, but what did I know.

Right after my initial “the book is ready!” announcement, my old college roommate Bryan Davidson volunteered to punch it up with a more professional layout.  He lays out sports annuals for Maple Street Press and was very excited about utilizing his creative expertise on a novel.  I asked him why he didn’t offer months ago, then wholeheartedly let him go at it.

The result is pretty spectacular.  The story hasn’t changed, but with the use of new fonts and a few images the difference is night and day.  Here are a few samples (click for larger versions):

We had a lot of fun batting ideas back and forth, and both of us are quite proud of the finished product. My personal favorite enhancement was getting to use the “Wichita” font designed by Mike Doughty as Local Boy’s handwriting. Special thanks to font designer Chank Diesel for his permission.

In celebration of the new edition, the price of the paperback has been marked down a buck from $16 to $15. If you’ve been procrastinating buying the book, the wait has paid off.  You save money, get a slick new layout, plus a handful of new lyrical allusions by the musically minded narrator.  On the minus side, you lose out on mocking me for my 4 typos (2 omitted words, 1 missing punctuation mark, and a then/than usage problem.  Nobody’s perfect…)

Buy The Remastered Paperback for $15

Commentary 18: 18 And Life

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

This chapter doesn’t have a whole lot of fun facts compared to the others. It mainly serves as a catch-up on what’s changed in the new present and bridges us to the beginning of the resolution. The silver lining of a new, time travel free life is the return of the cute little redheaded girl in a starring role…for now.

Other tidbits:

  • Another winner of a chapter title, playing nicely with “I might be stuck here forever.”
  • We learn the repercussions of the pilfered Billy Joel song. Unbeknownst to the narrator despite his musical expertise, Billy Joel almost hung it up after Cold Spring Harbor. It was a live rendition of “Captain Jack” that propelled him to a new record and subsequent superstardom.
  • This chapter contains the most blatant, easy as pie easter egg of all. Need help? The lack of a 555 should tell you something…
  • The questionnaire was inspired by the memory test given to airforce test pilots in the very first episode of Quantum Leap, and includes some of the same questions.
  • The breakup scene was especially fun to write and is one of my favorite scenes in the book. I still get a kick out of the Beatles lyric it contains every time I read it. A lot of the lyrical allusions were added after the fact when I’d hear a line out of context and mentally tie it to an existing scene in the book, after which I’d find a place to massage it in. I heard the Black Keys cover of She Said, She Said one day and immediately knew exactly where it belonged.
  • I really wanted to end this chapter with a song lyric once the narrator left the room and was out of earshot, but I could not find one that fit. Toyed with “we’ll meet again some day on the avenue,” but that was already half-used elsewhere. So instead he precedes his exit with a snippet of Bob Mould’s “Can’t Fight It” from No Alternative and it goes right over the head of his ex.
  • There are 32 known musical references in this chapter.

Read Chapter Eighteen Online

Commentary 17: Wounded Kite At :17

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

We finally return to “present” time, allowing our hero to discover that things have changed…but not for the better. His homecoming focuses on the effects of extended time travel on the body as well as his ensuing confusion when things aren’t quite right. To make matters worse, this may no longer be a time travel story.

Other tidbits:

  • This is hands down my favorite chapter title. It’s also the one that prompted me to get out of bed to start my numeric title brainstorming list. The coincidental placement of this chapter works perfectly too, as the narrator is erratically jerked around like a wounded kite.
  • Requiring a traveler to retrace their blinks on their way back home was loosely inspired by the TV show Sliders featuring a group stuck “sliding” from parallel universe to parallel universe. (Not time travel, but similar in general concept.) It was originally set up that the alternate worlds went in a set order, but they later abandoned that aspect of the mythology. I stuck with it.
  • We have another nod to Quantum Leap when the narrator faces a mirror image that is not his own. His new look with “a wide goatee” alludes to the cover art of the book, though it’s not an exact match and thus intentionally ambiguous.
  • At one time there were lots of locations mentioned by name, but I eventually pared them all down under the overarching “no names” rule. But I just couldn’t take out the reference to Town Spa Pizza. I grew up on it, I love it, I send anyone who visits the greater Boston area there even though it’s well outside of the city, and besides the Red Sox it’s probably the only other thing I truly miss about the East Coast. (For the record, my pizza of choice is Pineapple, Broccoli, and Bacon. It’s not on the menu, but it should be…)
  • Back To The Future alert: “Mom, Mom is that you?”
  • For the record, I’m quite proud of my dissertation on sex ed as it applies to time travel. This is also where the earlier line about Nelson’s father “saving himself for marriage” pays off.
  • Having Nelson and the brother be in a relationship together wasn’t pre-planned. I actually didn’t even know what was going to be in the tree house until the narrator flipped open the trap door. But once he did, it seemed to be a very logical turn of events. It also opens up a thought provoking question about fate, destiny, cupid, soulmates, etc.
  • Note that the narrator acknowledges that if his older self exists at all, he’d still be in California.
  • The conversation with the brother in the kitchen is essentially an alternate version of the previously unseen “I can’t believe you want to marry this guy!” exchange.
  • It distracted from the narrative so I took it out, but the titles of the other Local Boy albums are abbreviated as “LBBS” (BarnStormer) and “LBCiQ” (Local Boy Calls It Quits). The “Quits” title is just a nickname, while the full title emulates the naming conventions of US-Only classic 1960s records like The Beatles’ Second Album or The Rolling Stones, Now!
  • The letter from Harry Chapin’s lawyer gives us a small peek into the impact of the stolen songs, while Local Boy’s pledge to “donate” the songs to up and coming artists illustrates both his guilt and how the timeline might resolve itself.
  • Coverville is a nod to my favorite podcast, and one I was proudly featured on recently.
  • I left the Guns ‘N Roses bit in as I’m still not holding my breath for Chinese Democracy to ever see the light of day. And even if it does, from the narrator’s perspective it’s only 2002.
  • The act of “giving Nelson’s Mom the Heisman” in reference to a break up is a brilliant Jon Mack-ism. When you look at the pose of the trophy, you really can’t create a better analogy.
  • “A Collection of Other People’s Songs” is borrowed from the title of a Carter USM covers compilation EP.
  • I painted myself into a bit of a corner with the removal of the neck bruise and the powers that it symbolized, but again it was something that just had to be done at this point in the story to keep the time travel logic on course.
  • There are 38 known musical references in this chapter.

Read Chapter Seventeen Online

Commentary 16: Christine Sixteen

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

We fast forward almost a year to see some of what played out between the Dad, the music, and the mother of Nelson. The butterfly effect has had its way with a few things, and the secrets of LBDG are finally revealed…or are they?

Other tidbits:

  • This chapter originally began with the death of Jim Morrison, but when I decided to give prominence to more members of the 27 club it switched to Hendrix since he died first. The deleted version with the Jim Morrison opening (including a connection to another famous Jim Morrison…) is hidden in a somewhat complicated and geeky easter egg on the narrator’s lb-dg.com blog.
  • It’s true that Don McLean was the inspiration for the song “Killing Me Softly.” The song started out as a poem by Lori Lieberman entitled “Killing Me Softly With His Blues” about Don playing “Empty Chairs” live at the Troubadour in LA.
  • “Renaming” the songs for the Local Boy album was harder than I anticipated for some reason, probably because it’s tough to mess with perfection.
  • More LBDG song origins: The Anthrax tune was a turning point. Originally it was an in-joke aimed at my friend Joel, but one day it clicked in my head that “Only” would make for an absolutely beautiful acoustic ballad. To the best of my knowledge nobody has covered it (and I’ve searched high and low), but if someone ever does they’ll have a real winner on their hands.
  • When Jim Morrison’s death led off this chapter, the Local Boy concert was an outdoor festival show. Moving it to Hendrix changed the month from July to September, necessitating the creation of the Barnstormer club.
  • Although my cousin Adam says he “really likes the dirty part,” I think it proves that there isn’t a career writing erotica in my future.
  • The line about the pianist saving himself for marriage will pay off later in the future Local Boy recap.
  • In an early draft Nelson’s Mom and the father did have a past romantic history, but it felt too coincidental as well as unnecessary backstory. Instead the possibility is just hinted at here, but whether or not it is in fact “true” can go either way.
  • I had an extremely late thought to actually have Local Boy join the 27 club. But this would require having the narrator go back and save his Dad to ensure his own future, and without drastically adjusting character ages and plotlines the paradoxical implications were just too far fetched and complicated.
  • The closing ponderings as to whether this had happened before are close but ultimately incorrect. The real explanation is a subtle form of dual-memory syndrome, causing the characters to have an underlying awareness of everything without actually ever “living” it.
  • There are 39 known musical references in this chapter.

Read Chapter Sixteen Online

Commentary 15: Prophet 15

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

The “Local Boy” sections seem to really resonate with readers. It also has been called out by two different reviewers as something that they wish I had explored more, specifically the repercussions of “stealing” music from the future. In hindsight I see their point, though at the same time I actually thought I had acknowledged it to a certain degree with the Billy Joel and Harry Chapin codas that come later on.

What’s funny is that this section almost wasn’t in the book at all. One of the original ideas I tossed around after deciding to write a novel was the story of an ambitious musician in present day seeking fame and fortune but never quite getting there. He’d then find himself sent back in time and would achieve superstardom by covering songs he “stole” from the future.

Although I thought the idea was interesting, I didn’t think I could write an entire novel about it. It felt more like a short film, or maybe an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. The movie in my head starred Jeff Tweedy from Wilco as the musician with the sticky fingers. No offense to Mr. Tweedy (who I’m a huge fan of), but something about his personality and style seems to fit the bill for that type of character.

Anyway, I scrapped the concept of the time traveling troubadour and had no intention of resurrecting it for this story. Then the narrator’s father started to be able to see him, which also wasn’t part of the plan. So I decided to add a section where father and son team up to prevent the conception of Nelson. I needed the young father to have something interesting going on in his past. I remembered that he played the guitar (originally a throwaway excuse for him to play “Sunshine” and not intentional foreshadowing), and it hit me in the face that this “short story” suddenly had a home. And once I had this realization, that’s when I went full steam ahead and skipped over the Hearts tournament to write about the rise and fall of Local Boy.

Since this criticism has come up, I have racked my brain for how I might have been able to do it differently to further explore the effects of borrowing songs. The conclusion I keep reaching is that I really couldn’t do that much more with it under the structure and point of view of the book as it stands. However, I have a very good idea of how it can be addressed if/when I decide to do a sequel. If that sequel comes to pass, I promise that this theme will be revisited as a part of it.

Other tidbits:

  • The field behind Dad’s house was originally a baseball field, but with the October timing and the removal of most of the baseball references it made more sense to switch to football.
  • The “You play the guitar!” revelation as written was as much a reflection of my own realization while writing the story as it is the narrator’s while traveling in time.
  • Dad’s initial set of actual “covers” went through several iterations. Originally it was all Beatles, then a mix of Beatles and Johnny Cash. Later it was just a bunch of hits from the few months preceding October of 1969. In the end I went with all covers by members of the dead rockstar club (still alive at the time), hinting at a possible dark future for Local Boy.
  • “Won One” is a real song by my sophomore year roommate Chris Evjy. The origin story is more or less accurate. I did come up with the title, though the thumbs up/thumbs down sessions were not all that regular of an occurrence in real life. And I do really think that “Won One” is among the greatest songs ever written, and Chris really does disagree 🙂
  • The chapter title could refer to the possibility that the fictional Chris Evjy was some sort of prophet.
  • Both stolen song setlists also went through a number of changes. At first it was primarily an in-joke about the characters not having names, with songs like “Unsingable Name,” “Horse With No Name,” “I’m In Love With Whats-Her-Name” making the cut. Later it evolved to be songs that were famously covered in the future (like the Travis’ version of “Baby One More Time” they did for MTV Unplugged). Eventually it turned into a bunch of disparate songs that I could hear incredible stripped down versions in my head whether or not they had actually been covered in the real world or not.
  • An easter egg is hidden in one of the setlists. Personally I think it’s really obvious, but as far as I know nobody has figured it out yet. If you’ve ever read “The Coma” by Alex Garland it may give you a hint as to what to look for.
  • I’m still way too amused over the “Superstition” exchange, when the narrator’s lyrical quoting almost serves to inspire the creation of the song he’s quoting from.
  • There are 54 musical references in this chapter, including all of the actual song titles.

Read Chapter Fifteen Online