2020 Hindsight Commentary: No, For The 13th Time & Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by The Wonder Stuff and Beck.

No, For The 13th Time

My (completely unrelated) work in progress novel starts a chapter with the same exact “Seeing the maid of honor reminded me of the Hearts tournament” sentence as this one. Originally it was an early draft lark for a laugh, but my unreasonable side wants to keep it.

By the established rules, he should have accidentally blinked to the hearts tournament upon seeing the maid of honor.

The change of pace to have only his head above the floor is a more clever scenario than I remembered, though I wish it went further than a one-off inappropriate upskirt crack. (At least my past self had the decency to dress the players so it was only a passing thought.)

I vaguely recall doing this to avoid/discourage another “tell yourself you’re from the future” redux. It’s effective in that regard. And I still buy the floor of a busy party is a great place to hide in plain site. People rarely look down! (I’ve worn mismatched socks for nearly 30 years and very few people notice until someone in the know points it out.)

Changing the Violent Femmes line for grammar misses the point of musical Tourette’s.

Today I could pretty much rewrite the party arrival paragraph by fully quoting “Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way?” by Benji Hughes.

You aren’t going to sneak hiding or re-playing the queen of spades past anyone while during a game of Hearts, but somehow Nelson didn’t get busted.

It’s a little too subtle here (which might mean I did it right), but the version of the narrator scribbling on the chalkboard is another instance of his older self head hopping in to take control.

Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods

Having a line like ”My father and myself were closest to me…” make logical sense still makes me proud.

Though not incorrect to refer to the multiverse here (the narrator is writing this down after the fact), it’s not the best place for the first reference to it.

I wish I flashed back to the comment about the in-laws vs the way younger author me handled it here.

That “stain on my shirt” bit is one of the more subtle lyrical allusions. I love it, but understand not everyone will connect the dots even if they know the song it comes from.

The section breaks come at odd places here. Younger me must’ve thought it was too short as 3 separate chapters.

Convincing the father to take the bet is too conveniently easy, and weaponizing the younger dad’s womanizing hasn’t really aged well. (The intent was to trigger the time travel reproduction dominoes while also juxtaposing the two versions of the father in a nod to BTTF. It’s innocent enough and in line with the period, but still interesting to think about how I’d handle it today.)

There should have been more to the dad being unemployed vs criticizing his son for wanting the same.

The part where the narrator justifies his crazy, potentially paradox inducing plan is a solid section. (At least until that AWAB part. Ugh…)

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

No, For the 13th Time  |  Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods

 

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Won One, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Local Boy & Bob Dylan.

Won One

This chapter should have started at the bar. My younger self had a habit of writing mostly continuously, prompting these bridge scenes.

Was there really such thing as “an ample selection of microbrews” in the year 2000?

Way too many “With that I…’s” throughout. (5 to start sentences, which doesn’t seem bad but is.)

Drifting between past and present tense was an intentional choice to illustrate the way brain waves interact between two time traveling selves. It was a great idea at the time, but looks like mismatched tenses to me now.

Following the redheaded girl home could have lasted more than a sentence, giving him time to reminisce, ponder, flashback, etc.

“Thunk rhymes with drunk” as the segue out of his thoughts and into the bar still amuses me.

The BTTF quote is super forced, but I do still dig the bit at the end of this chapter when his older self takes control.

Time travel rules wise, a blackout is the perfect time for the consciousness of another self to take over (and this was written before The Butterfly Effect came out). It is a little unintuitive since you typically pick a memory to travel back to, and a blackout is the absence of one. The idea here is that you’re more susceptible to timely persuasion while in an inebriated state.

“I refuse to undo what I’ve already done!” refers to setting the sister up with Nelson — something we already know the old man will later change his mind about…or does he?

When he passes out, his other self relinquishes control and the blacked out body collapses. That’s why he doesn’t remember any of it in the next chapter.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Fun fact: If there’s ever a sequel, I’ve always planned to resume chapter numbering at 27 and re-use this song for chapter 35 — revisiting the wedding from another point of view.

How could I not find a way to fit in a “No Scrubs” reference here?

This chapter may be the only time “incesticide” has ever been properly used in a sentence.

The suspense around his younger self potentially not showing up should have lasted more than a couple of sentences.

I forgot that I did use the “Is she really going out with him?” line here, which makes me annoyed my younger self didn’t think to open with it. (I also cringe at my younger self’s “b***h has him whipped” line…)

(Note: I reread my original commentary post where my younger self said he considered that opening but decided the line worked better here. He was wrong…)

The big font thing is a little obnoxious, but I love it. (Sorry, BD!)

2 “circumstances” in the same sentence of the objection. Ouch…

With that…

Also 2 dumbfoundeds in this chapter. I need to go back and gift my younger self a better thesaurus.

Lots of blows are landing square.

Dad should have threatened to kill his invisible son, mirroring the chase scene from earlier.

Yes, I am laughing that the last line of the wedding chapter is “piece of cake.”

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Won One  |  Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Eight Days a Week, Drivin’ on 9, 10 A.M. Automatic

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by The Beatles, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, and The Black Keys.

Eight Days A Week

Sorted/sort word choice is a little awkward.

The narrator’s logic of tackling his attempts at saving his sister in reverse chronology still makes sense to me, but his logic of making a completely unrelated and self serving time trip right after explaining this plan is a head scratcher.

His sister “turning fifteen” during the cribbage scene is a neat bit of phrasing that I wish I could say was planned, but I’m pretty sure was a happy accident.

If I could go back, I’d drop the motherf@#$er inside joke and have the Dad yell without the cuss.

Drivin’ On 9

I never noticed the “Drivin’ on 9” vs 9/11 parallel in the chapter title before now.

A barhopping memory is a better anchor point to blink to than a library, but it should have been about a song playing at a bar (if not a bar band…)

“Discarded dumpster discoveries” is a pretty good line, even with author bias in play.

Conversely, “the office I worked in as a bitch” is cringeworthy now.

Nowadays I criticize stories that reference times ending with :00. :15, :30, :45 as being unrealistic, but my past self had no problem with it. (My current self also picked up a habit of setting alarm clocks and oven temperatures to palindromic numbers, which feels like something the narrator might do. Who made who?)

Using italics before he realizes he spoke aloud are not a mistake. Both selves were tuned in to each other (and other others) telepathically, making it feel like he spoke aloud when he didn’t.

The logistics of how he would pin himself down on the couch, have that conversation, and then stand up are a little fuzzy. (Plus the “I’m stoned and half out of it so I won’t question the fact that my future self is here” doesn’t play quite as well as I remembered/intended.)

I still like the bulk of this chapter, but the end falls flat/fizzles fairly fast.

10 A.M. Automatic

Kudos to Bryan Davidson for convincing me to “officially” make AM/PM a different size font like you’re supposed to throughout, which looks especially good in the paperback chapter title.

I’m still torn on whether the lyrical Tourette’s should be obvious or subtle. Which works better?

The odds were in my favor that I’d still be able to at least observe from a few feet above or below. Easy come, easy go, little high, little low.

OR

The odds were in my favor that I’d still be able to at least observe from a little high/little low.

Probably could have handled the elevation foreshadowing better or as a surprise.

That Beach Boys reference is so well placed it makes me lean towards subtle. Same with Pearl Jam a little later. You barely realize it’s a reference.

Reading the transition to the creepy hospital still gives me the same surge of giddy adrenaline it did when my past self went off-outline and that scene wrote itself in the first draft.

There is no way I didn’t check if “straightjacket” was one word or two. Two words seems wrong. I wonder if my younger self misunderstood what a dot in the middle of a dictionary word really meant (it’s syllables, right?)

If he blinked back to the day of the plane ride, he hasn’t told himself what to do yet so his other self shouldn’t be committed. Unless he kept going back and we’re seeing the aftermath of many blinks. But I don’t remember my intent. (Other changes “catch up to you” when you go back to real time, so could be his older self still meddling — or lying.)

I sooo wish it said “she stood me up” instead of “she stood him up”

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Eight Days a Week  |  Drivin’ on 9  |  10 A.M. Automatic

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Five Seconds to Hold You, 6ix, Tram #7 to Heaven

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Devics, The Lemonheads & Jens Lekman.

Five Seconds to Hold You

Feels there should have been a little more of a riff on the (unfounded) rumors that Kurt wrote most of the songs on Live Through This.

Covered, cover to cover.

My past self (via the narrator) citing a Reverend Horton Heat / Butthole Surfers bill “inexplicably” selling out is hilarious in hindsight.

The bench went back in time, so it should now be “missing” in the future.

Quibbles on execution aside, I do still enjoy the concept of the O Henry / Twilight Zone style arc of this chapter where he succeeds in controlling his time travel but can’t complete his mission due to a physical technicality.

6ix

Has that “drown my sorrow” typo has always been here? (I also can’t decide and/or can’t remember if it was intentional or a typo.)

This dual-leaguer stuff is unnecessarily confusing.

A “recent library memory” is a vaguely lame way to blink and lazy writing.

As the back room is described, the force of the bowling ball probably would have carried it out of that back room completely. Maybe his older self planted the ball for him to find, or stood back there to stop it.

Technically he threw Glitzy through the pins a month earlier, but with this time travel thing being so new to him I let him get that one wrong on purpose. He’s already acknowledged being bad at math outside of bowling.

If he was sitting on a stool when he blinked from the bar, the fall down bit should have happened again upon his return. (A better way to handle would have been to have him stand to specifically avoid that. It doesn’t say he didn’t….)

“Who injected you?” implies someone else was a possible answer.

“Stunned by this turn of events…” is a little over the top coming right after such a big reveal. Definitely a “show, don’t tell” moment.

Tram #7 to Heaven

Electronical.

That airplane blink should have blocked something important vs being a pure setup for the elevation rule. As is it’s mostly unnecessary.

The second half of this chapter (starting in the car with his father) is one of my go-tos for public readings. A nice midpoint section that tees up a lot of the overarching plot pieces without getting too spoilery. (Depending on the audience, I sometimes pivot to the first bowling scene or his first songwriting session with Local Boy since there’s no actual time travel in this section.)

Check out the original 2008 commentary for these chapters:

Five Seconds to Hold You  |  6ix  |  Tram #7 to Heaven

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Gimme Three Steps, Four Hours in Washington

I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Today’s look at yesterday’s chapters is brought to you by Lynyrd Skynyrd & M. Ward.

Gimme Three Steps

Future me would retcon the opening line here to “I am from the future…I am from the future…I am from the future…” like the Benji Hughes chant throughout LILILIL.

“…any thought sunk before I could get my mind afloat enough to theorize…” would have been a better line.

“Pass right through me” is a little overused. (It’s both an accurate descriptor of what’s happening and a reference to a song by Julie Smiley that nobody knows.)

Leap year day had to be intentional, but I’m pretty sure it was unrelated to the release date. The calendar origin of the word “blink” still makes me smile as much as when I inserted it into a late draft.

The full Tori Amos lyric is a little forced. The original slight misquote flows better.

CDs and mixtapes date things a little.

He falls asleep listening to Won One, teasing that it may all be a dream when he wakes up near the end. (It’s not a dream, but the door was intentionally left open.)

The earthquake bit is a little dumb, though you really do shrug them off like that after you’ve lived in LA for awhile.

The watch probably should have been 97 minutes out of sync, but that’s getting super specific and picky…

“Is this real?” should have been in italics to justify the tense change in the story world since it’s a message from his future self.

Four Hours in Washington

Accidentally perfect numbered title…except that the chapter is mostly set in Oregon.

Printed internet driving directions! (Remember, it is set in 2002.)

Six consecutive paragraphs that start with “I…” Ugh…

Two “set forths” also. Ugh, ugh.

Syndicated college newspaper articles. Did those even exist?

Kinda cool the way the “Th” in “The” overlaps in the font BD chose for the remastered layout.

An early incarnation of my real life college radio show was called “All The Brits and More!” before later settling on “The Lack of Evidence Show”

I’m still the only person to use cacophony of controlled chaos to describe Nirvana according to Google. (If that MetalInsider article it still there, it has the phrase in the text but Nirvana in an unrelated cached sidebar article.)

Chauvinism is probably a better word to describe the father. The plot device of the young father being this way but his older version having grown out of it still works for me, though in today’s era I’m not sure if I would’ve gone there as readily as my past self did.

He can’t get to the future because he has no memory of it, and time travel is powered by the memories of the collective consciousness. What if a time traveler was able to paint a vivid picture of the future into the ears of other time travelers? Would those embedded memories be traversable? Sounds like decent fodder for a sequel…

Turning the throwaway “you need to have balls” line into the scene segue still amuses me to no end even though it shouldn’t.

The ball and newspaper went back in time with him after visualizing the show, but are still there when he returns. This is a mistake. (Technically the carpet and maybe even the bed should have come with him too depending on how far the “electricity” rule of time travel extends.)

Was my future self telling me about the hyperloop when I wrote about a high-speed tunnel from New York to London? Or did Timely Persuasion inspire Elon Musk?

I had an annoying habit of not putting paragraph breaks in obvious places–which is fascinating as I also recall agonizing over where to break up certain longer paragraphs and/or merge short ones during one of the final cleanup drafts. Always trust your first instinct; it’s the one your future self is asking for.

Check out the original commentary for these chapters:

Gimme Three Steps | Four Hours in Washington

2020 Hindsight Commentary: Prologue, One, Two of Us

As promised/threatened, I’m revisiting Timely Persuasion 12 years after releasing it / 17 years after writing it / 6000+ days since I jokingly told Jon Mack “maybe I’ll write a book…” with a new round of fresh eyed commentary. Here we go…

Prologue

For a few years now I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the prologue that goes two different ways. On one hand, part of me agrees with some critics that said it doesn’t add a lot of value to the story. All setup, some spoiler-y. Cutting it wouldn’t impact things too much aside from losing the bookended reprise/epilogue at the end.

On the other hand, I wish I had opened with a lyrical reference to set the tone for the narrator’s lyrical Tourette’s right out of the gate. Retconning, it would go a little something like this:

“Is she really going out with him?”

So many people asked me that question it’s impossible to count or remember who said it first. But I do remember what came next.

“I can’t believe you want to marry this guy!”

That was the last thing I ever said to my sister.

Only other noteworthy thing I picked up in my reread is my younger self had an annoying habit of overusing literary “air quotes” throughout. Ten in this prologue alone! “Sigh.”

One

There’s really no good reason for the bartender to be French story-wise. It’s an inside joke that’s a little forced.

I somehow used the wrong (or I guess more accurately “less right”) spelling of acknowledgment here with the extra E.

Once upon a time I had the lottery numbers memorized, but nowadays get them mixed up with the LOST numbers. (These numbers predated LOST by a few years.)

Mountain Dew rock is awkwardly forced in. I should have at least kept the “rock” uppercase or acknowledged the song. (Yes, I used the righter spelling this time.)

Note to my future self: Remember that tan van if there’s a sequel since it never quite pays off here.

Two of Us

“Glitzy was my bowling ball…” might be my favorite chapter opener.

I still mostly dig this chapter, but I use the word “still” too much. (Including in this sentence. So I guess I still use still too much.)

“All seven digits” still makes me smile after all these years. And it still makes no sense. (And I’m still saying still.)

Random fun fact I didn’t realize when writing the book: The Bowling Stones were an actual team my old bowling league at Hollywood Star Lanes. One of the real-life “tattooed biker guys” that inspired the fictional version was Michael Voltaggio of Top Chef, before he was famous.

Minor error: There’s no reason for Bowlingus to say he shouldn’t be talking to the narrator. I think that’s leftover from an older version where the narrator had a perfect game at this point and I never noticed it didn’t fit until now.

I’m going to call out and explain the time-travely logic as it comes up. This is mainly to see if I remember it, but also a decent test if I (still) think it makes sense.

Thinking about Bowlingus and his 270 game from a month ago sends him back in time. He doesn’t touch his neck bruise because he doesn’t have to. (Later he thinks he does, but he’s wrong.) He’s focused on fixing Glitzy so he doesn’t notice, and the passing line earlier that the 270 happened on the same lane on a night he skipped bowling league was setup for this.

The stool he’s sitting on goes back in time with him since he was in contact with it. That’s why he falls when he returns to the present — the chair stayed in the past. Same with Glitzy.

“Future” shouldn’t be uppercase at the end. Or should it…

Check out the original commentary for these chapters:

Prologue | One | Two of Us

Three Leap Years Later

Hello, friends. Remember me?

It’s been awhile. Aside from the annual year-end (and occasional event based) music lists this blog hasn’t seen much action. Not to overpromise, but I’m hoping that will change a little this year.

Timely Persuasion was released on 2/29/08, making today the book’s third or twelfth birthday depending on how you count. (Leap year day was chosen intentionally due to it being kinda-sorta-not-really time travel-ly and so I wouldn’t have to celebrate anniversaries all that often…) What have I been up to since then?

Re-launched TP under the JL Civi pen name, plus finally started serializing that jury duty book:

Wrote a few drafts of a new novel, codenamed “LX” for now until I figure out a couple of permissions issues. (Like JL CIVI, it looks like a roman numeral but it’s not. Or is it…?)

And later this year, look for some exciting news about the Timely Persuasion audiobook with an absolutely perfect person narrating it.

In the meantime, this blog revival will begin with a new set of chapter by chapter commentaries from my older self who has been rereading. In the words of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals: “In the end my friend, 20/20 is hindsight.”

Anyways, it’s good to be back!

Kurt Cobain + Time Travel = 3 Books

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 JL Civi: 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 & JL’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.

JLC:  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 JL Civi. 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!

JLC:  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 time 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. 

JLC:  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.

JLC:  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.

JLC:  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!”

JLC:  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…

JLC:  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.

JLC:  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!”

JLC:  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.)

JLC:  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.

JLC:  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.

JLC:  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.

JLC:  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.

JLC:  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:

AmazonAmazon
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Fester Commentary

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

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.