Remember Remember the 5th of November

November 5th continues to be one of my favorite pseudo-holidays for obvious time travel geekery reasons.

In honor of that great red-letter date, here are a few BTTF tidbits found in Timely Persuasion.

Chapter 3:

After a year of constantly playing the Back to the Future soundtrack, my uncle took me to see Huey Lewis and the News.

Chapter 9:

I didn’t even need or want a DeLorean. Just a time bicycle would have made me a happy camper.

Chapter 17:

That was it. He confirmed that the future mother of his children actually existed, gave Nelson’s Mom the Heisman, renamed the album Quits, played one final show, and abruptly left the music business behind to seek out his density—I mean destiny—with my real mother.

Chapter 17: 

Still groggy, aching, and starving, I woke up on the couch with a figure hovering above me.

“Mom? Mom is that you?”


Jeff Winston, Pamela Phillips, Henry DeTamble, Jud Elliott, Billy Pilgrim, Sam Deed, James Cole, John Titor, Dan Vasser, Livia Beale, Tru Davies, Daniel Eakins, Sam Beckett, Al Calavicci, Marty McFly, Emmett Brown, Bill S. Preston, Ted “Theodore” Logan, Hiro Nakamura, Eckels, Aaron, Abe, Will, Sherman, Mr. Peabody, and anyone else who has walked in their shoes.

It’s been so long there are probably a few more I can’t remember or readily find.  Check them out for yourself via Amazon, Apple, and/or online.

Ramblings VII

Another long absence from blogging means it’s time to invoke the ghosts of Pearl Jam Xmas singles past for some random thoughts:

  • Found this Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about the Back to the Future trilogy told through the eyes of the DeLorean Time Machine. Plan is to have it debut in time for the 30th anniversary in 2015. Sign me up! Check it out and pledge here.
  • Speaking of pledges, Mike Doughty is re-imagining a bunch of Soul Coughing songs in an effort to purge the darkness associated with his old band. Though it did spark some fan controversy across social network land, the PledgeMusic campaign blew away its goal and the early previews of the in-progress songs are intriguingly good. I’m excited for the finished product and tentatively reserving a slot on my album of the year list (right behind those rumored three albums from Benji Hughes…). Check it out and pledge here.
  • Continuing my loose segues through these bullets, my “at the half” candidates for album of the year would be We The Common by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Fade by Yo La Tengo, the all request all-covers set Wilco did at Solid Sound, and Charge by David Ford.
  • Made a good 4000+ words worth of progress on the forthcoming Duty Calls novel on a recent vacation. It’s slowly coming together, but still likely at least a year out. (Let’s say if I finish it before the aforementioned 30th anniversary of BTTF I’ll be happy.) I do plan on dropping another one of the stories as a standalone eBook like I did with “Fester” at some point, so stay tuned…

More Red Letter Dates

The most famous red letter date in the history of time travel is November 5, 1955 from Back to the Future.

November 5, 1955

Lesser known BTTF dates include:

  • January 1, 1885 (Doc’s trip to the Old West)
  • September 2, 1885 (Marty’s trip to the Old West)
  • November 12, 1955 (Enchantment Under The Sea / Lighting vs the Clock Tower / Biff gives himself the Sports Almanac)
  • October 26, 1985 (The day it all started)
  • October 21, 2015 (Marty & Jennifer’s trip to the future)
  • October 26, 2015 (Doc’s first trip to the future, assuming “30 is a nice round number”)

In Timely Persuasion many of the actual time travel dates are vague — but there are some key red letter dates based on the narrator’s memories or bits of musical trivia:

  • October 12, 1969 (WKNR DJ Russ Gibb starts the “Paul is Dead” rumor)
  • September 18, 1970 (Jimi Hendrix found dead)
  • April 7, 1994 (Eve of discovery of Kurt Cobain’s body; Tom Grant & Dylan Carlson search house)
  • April 12, 2000 (Napster/Metallica copyright suit)
  • September 10, 2001 (Trying to save sister)

As long as we’re on the subject, let’s extend the red letter dates to include some of my other favorite time travel tales:

  • September 13, 1956 (Sam Beckett’s first Quantum Leap)
  • September 9, 1958 (Destination of the time portal in 11/22/63)
  • February 22, 1972 (Mickey Wade’s pills bring him here in Expiration Date)
  • September 23, 1977 (Clare first meets Henry in The Time Traveler’s Wife)
  • October 2, 1988 (Jet Engine & Frank the Rabbit travel back to this date in Donnie Darko)
  • October 18, 1988 (Jeff Winston dies and starts replaying in Replay)
  • October 26, 1991 (Henry first meets Clare in The Time Traveler’s Wife)
  • December 12, 1996 (James Cole witnesses the death of his future self at the airport in 12 Monkeys)
  • November 5, 1999 (Jacob travels back to visit Peter at the cafe in Trickshot)
  • March 16, 2005 (Uncle Jim visits Danny Deakins in The Man Who Folded Himself)
  • October 23, 2030 (The date of the future visions seen in the novel Flashforward)
I’ve never noticed this before, but time travelers sure like the fall.  17 of the 23 dates listed above are in Sept/Oct/Nov!

Ramblings VI

I seem to have hit another of those lengthy posting lags while the world gets in the way.  Ramblings time:

  • Been digging the new Back To The Future Game from Telltale.  It’s essentially BTTF IV, starting off 6 months after the trilogy ends in 1986 and has Marty bouncing back and forth between 1931 and the present interacting with a teenage Doc.  Right now I’m midway through episode 4 out of 5.  It’s probably worthy of a full post once the whole thing is done.
  • Discovered yet another Ziggy iPhone app.  This one’s called Ziggy’s Time Traveler Emergency Reference and is basically a QL skinned offline Wikipedia viewer.  Pretty much right along the lines of the real Ziggy, though it won’t tell you when history changes via an edit to the wiki…
  • The Beastie Boys short film Fight For Your Right Revisited features an unexpectedly awesome time travel twist, complete with BTTF DeLorean cameo.
  • Been so busy I realize I wrote but forgot to post my annual year-end music best of list.  Wait, a minute, I got all the time I want! I got a time machine!  I could just go back early and post it…

Ziggy for iPhone

I knew it was only a matter of time. Previously I’ve wished for an iPhone app that emulates the handlink from Quantum Leap. I even had Al using an iPhone-based Ziggy in my fanfic story for the Leap Back Convention, “Just Like Starting Over.”

Ask and ye shall receive:

Ziggy for iPhone & iPod Touch

Ziggy for iPhone & iPod Touch

Ziggy Lights-On

The game itself is just sort of ok, but the sound effects and the fact that it’s ZIGGY more than make up for it. If you’re a time travel nut like me, Ziggy says there’s a 96.8% chance you’ll want to install this app.

And in other time-travel iPhone news, check out:

This one tells you where you're going, this one tells you where you are, this one tells you where you were.

This one tells you where you're going, this one tells you where you are, this one tells you where you were.

DeLorean Time Circuits (iTunes Link)

Ramblings III

  • Whenever I (legally) drive through a yellow light it makes me think of Back to the Future and how difficult it would logistically be to time driving through a lightning strike with such precision.
  • Read a cool short story called “The Variant” by John August.  Well worth the 99 cent price tag.  And without giving too much away, it’s definitely on-topic for this blog.
  • The Quantum Leap Fanfilm “A Leap to Di For” I referenced after the QL convention is now streaming online for free.  Check it out at Racso Films.  (No full screen option on the site.  If you want full screen, try opening this .FLV link in a standalone player such as VLC.)

Ramblings I

In the spirit of the early years of the Pearl Jam Xmas Single, here are some tangentially on-topic thoughts not big enough for their own posts:

  • I’ve been having recurring dreams (and/or daydreams) where M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel (aka She & Him) cover “Start Choppin’” by Dinosaur Jr., trading verses in an acoustic duet.  Sounds fabulous too, with M. nailing the high pitched “goodbye” parts and the whole thing feeling very much like “Sometimes Always” or “Do You Love Me Now Jr.?
  • Time Magazine called “The Constant” from Season 4 of LOST the single best television episode of 2008.  And with its brilliant use of time travel I think the episode will eventually turn my trinity (Replay, Quantum Leap, Back To The Future) into a quartet.
  • The original Back To The Future is being re-released as a double disc DVD in February.  Footage from “Back To The Future: The Ride” that was recently closed down will be included as a bonus feature.  This was on the wishlist when the original DVDs of the trilogy came out a few years ago.  Now only the Eric Stoltz as Marty footage eludes us…
  • I’m in the middle of reading Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to come across the line: “Billy blinked in 1965, traveled in time to 1958.”  Perhaps that’s where my future self got the phrasing.  So it goes…


I’m a big fan of the TV show LOST.  I’m also a bit of an Internet geek.  So when they pulled these two concepts together in their nearly annual Alternate Reality Game (ARG) between seasons I was quite excited — especially when they hinted at more time travel in the video that kicked it off.

Now that the game has seemingly met an early demise (though you never can tell for sure with these things), I figured it was an appropriate time for a minor confession/explanation in regards to, aka my adventure in mild cybersquatting.

It started off innocently enough.  It was late in the evening and I read on a blog that the ARG was starting at  Rather than clicking on a link I typed the address manually into a browser and got a page not found error.  I quickly realized that I had missed the “H” in Dharma and the typo prevented me from reaching the proper site.

After correcting my error and registering, I found it odd that the creators of the game hadn’t also registered the seemingly common typo.  I was in the early throes of book promotion and decided this could be a cheap awareness exercise, so I grabbed the domain myself.

My intent wasn’t to con people.  I felt (and still feel) that fans of LOST are likely to enjoy Timely Persuasion due to the time travel theme, the sci-fi though not heavy sci-fi plot, and a few coincidental elements regarding important numbers, a secret hospital, a rock star, and some time travel theory that’s scarily similar to an episode of LOST titled “The Constant.”  (Again — all purely coincidental since the book was primarily written in 2003.)  I also thought the fact that the book contained a mini-ARG would appeal to gamers joining this Dharma ARG as a bonus surprise.

Now in the wee hours of that same night, I quickly whipped up a landing page.  I made sure to play the honesty card first: (I made the same typo so I registered this site as a good samaritan – here is the site you are really looking for).  Then I  gave my shameless plug by linking to the free online version of the book (linking to the paid version felt dirty), peppered the whole thing with some Dharma related phrases from the show to play up the fact that I’m a true fan (Hostiles, Good Guys, Namaste), and signed it.

In a closing flash of inspiration I put the famous numbers from the show after my signature, followed by the numbers from the book as an intriguing teaser, and dropped into narrator mode with an appropriate lyrical quote.

During the final proofread I deleted a smart-ass comment after my intro that inferred that I was part of the game, but then instead decided to fade out the transparency of the text on both that line and the numbers.  This is probably the only place I can be accused of being intentionally coy and deceitful, but like I said it was late and it seemed like fun.

Right out of the gate the page was getting around 100 unique hits per day.  Based on early message board chatter, most people correctly interpreted it for what it was: A clever way to market a book, with a few posts of thanks for taking the high road and pointing people in the right direction.

Then the stars aligned in some unplanned ways.

The game was moving at an extremely slow pace.  After launching a day late a full week went by without any updates, leaving players restless for clues.

I was one of these restless players, and ended up discovering a clue before anyone else.  Each time the game sent out an email they linked to an HTML version of the same message that contained the date at the end of the URL as the filename (/0808.php, for example).  Bored, I started modifying the URL with upcoming dates and found a new email a couple of days early.  (At the time I thought the email was intended to be found, but shortly after I discovered this the game creators started password protecting these email pages until their official day of release.)

I submitted what I found to Lost blogger DarkUFO under the book related alias LBDG, which led to some discussion boards believing me to be an in-game source intentionally leaking info.  My favorite example is in this thread from the Lostpedia Forums:

“It might be a coincidence, but if it turns out that the same guy who wrote a book about traveling through time to save dead people was really the one who found the hidden email, kudos to him.”

More coincidences started to play into my favor unexpectedly as well, including:

  1. My real name is Jacob, same as a key character in the LOST mythology.
  2. The first LOST ARG used a novel called Bad Twin that tied into both the game and the show, giving plausibility to the idea that another book could be used in this ARG.
  3. The same day I found the clue, I had published a blog post comparing the book to Buddhism that used the term Dharma.  (I’d actually written the analysis years before and was holding back on blogging it until I finished my series of chapter commentaries.)
  4. The day after I found the clue I posted a quote from the song “Ocean” by Sebadoh on the narrator’s tumblog, which was interpreted as a reference to Lost’s Island by a few people.
  5. The Extras section of the website includes a short story I wrote several years ago called “Paradox Lost” that was later folded into Timely Persuasion.

A few more message board quotes:

“I am thinking he is just making a good way to promote his story, and it is pretty nice of him to link the real dharma site, much more than i can say for a lot of dharma fake sites.”

“I’m a little freaked out. I can’t tell if this guy is an uberfan like us, part of the ARG, or a brilliant strategist who is certain to dupe countless Lost addicts into reading his book.  Either way, I’m about to start.”

“I’ve read through the first couple of chapters, and there’s already mention of playing certain lottery numbers, time travel, the purchase of airplane tickets, and the fact that the author’s name is (supposedly) Jacob. I’m not ruling it out just yet. And as I believe someone mentioned somewhere before, even it it turns out to be a dead end, it does serve to entertain us while we wait for the definite clues to turn up.”

I maintained my pageviews for the duration of the game, spiking upwards near the low thousands on days the game sent out official emails.  Quite a few visitors seemed to at least start reading the book based on my stats.  Here are some more of their comments (with answers from me where appropriate in red):

“LMAO  “The answer was obvious. You need to have balls to travel in time.”  Now i’m not really sure about this…”

To be honest I wasn’t sure about that line when I wrote it, but everyone finds it to be quite memorable…

“You are better off renting the Butterfly Effect as the concept is ripped from it.”

Butterfly Effect similarities are unintentional; the book was actually written before that movie came out.

“Yes, with a dash of Back To The Future.  From the mind of a man who could pwn at Rock ‘n’ Roll trivial pursuit.”

Guilty as charged on BTTF references, and flattered by the pwnage comment.

“I’m actually reading this book Timely Persuasion and it actually explains some things for me about what Faraday might be experiencing.”

I agree that it seems similar, though according to Faraday you can’t change the future, and by my rules you can.

“I started reading it, but I’m not too interested until it’s confirmed that it is part of the game…it doesn’t seem to be written too well.”

Ouch.  First person I’ve ever encountered to say it isn’t written well.  Even Gavin Williams called it “good writing” in his negative partial review, only having issue with the narrative voice and the storyline.

“Let me know when he updates with lyrics from Genesis’ “Home By The Sea.”

I think I owe this person a little bit of credit

If you were one of the people who checked out the novel after finding out about it in this way: Thanks!  I greatly appreciate you giving it a chance and hope it helped entertain you during the lulls in the mediocre DWY experience.  And if you want to give my mini-ARG a try, Chapter 18 is probably your best entry point.

(One final note to my Brazilian Orkut friends – a special thanks for creating the group and being the trailblazers for the ARG.  I’ll save the story of how we met and some of our interactions for a future post.   I also know I still owe you guys more clues for phase two.  It’s in the works and should be ready early next year.  Batteries Ice Pint…)

A Red Letter Date

I just realized the significance of today’s date.

November 5, 1955

November 5, 1955

53 years ago, Dr. Emmett Brown invented the flux capicitor — which is what makes time travel possible.

More recently, in September of 1995 Carter USM released what would become their final single: Born On The 5th November.

Coincidence? Well, probably…

(Special thanks to this site where I found the image of the DeLorean Time Circuits. Check it out for a detailed analysis of some production inconsistencies in the BTTF movies brilliantly titled: “What the Flux?“)

Remember remember the 5th of November!


The Story Behind The Story

As I’ve said before, I’m a better writer than I am a marketer.  That’s not to say I’m necessarily a brilliant writer, just that one skill outshines the other.

On the Timely Persuasion website, I periodically play around with “The Story” section at the top in an attempt to get the best mix of marketing bang plus factual synopsis.  At one point a few months ago I had a late night inspiration and tried a long, rambly, semi in-character and semi as-author version.  Days later I took it down and revised in a simpler direction.

In the interest of a complete permanent record, here’s that longer aborted version:

One early reviewer hit the nail on the head when they said the story of Timely Persuasion has “a premise that is very difficult to summarize in a review.”  That said, I’ll give it a shot below:

Timely Persuasion follows an anonymous music critic on a quest to save his sister from the relationship that ended her life. After a chance encounter at a bowling alley leaves him with the ability to travel in time, our hero uses his musical knowledge to “blink” through the years attempting to keep the couple apart by any means necessary. But is her husband Nelson really to blame?

Along the way he accidentally restructures his family tree, kick-starts his sagging love life, launches a new rock star, and crosses paths with the likes of Huey Lewis, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Billy Joel. Reliving past events through the eyes of his younger selves, he soon finds that correlation and causation are not always what they seem.

This story of death, life, love, and rock and roll defies genre conventions while paying tribute to the classic time travel tales that came before it. Fans of Quantum Leap or Back To The Future will love Timely Persuasion.

Another reviewer read a version of the above synopsis and had this to say:

“To be blunt, Timely Persuasion‘s misleading plot blurb makes a fun novel sound absolutely cheesy. Happily, Timely Persuasion absolutely does not go down this road [and] ends up being much more enjoyable than the the above description had led me to expect.”

So we’ve learned that I’m a better author than I am a marketer.  Let’s try this synopsis thing again:

Theorizing that his sister’s death was the fault of her husband, an anonymous music critic drank too much at a bowling alley….and vanished.

He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that omit him and driven by a guilty conscience to change history for the better.

His only guides on this journey are song lyrics, cryptic messages linking past and future that only he can see and hear.

And so our hero finds himself blinking from year to year, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next blink will find his sister safe at home.

Ok. That wasn’t much better since I just parodied the intro to Quantum Leap.  But it is a decent summary, and both QL and Back To the Future were heavy influences that the story pays respectful homage to.  One more try:

On the simplest level, this book is about music and bowling and beer and regrets and relationships and time travel.  It’s a love letter to a misspent youth, peppered with a soundtrack for the ages.  Contained in these pages you’ll find references and allusions to the music of (in rough order of appearance): Huey Lewis, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Harry Chapin, The Beatles, Blur, Carter USM, Cast, Supergrass, Black Grape, Oasis, James, Kula Shaker, The Wonder Stuff, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Possum Dixon, Pearl Jam, The Offspring, Rodan, Hole, Beck, Reverend Horton Heat, Butthole Surfers, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, 311, Jonathan Edwards, Soul Coughing, Metallica, G. Love & Special Sauce, Paul McCartney, Anthrax, Mary’s Danish, The Mr. T Experience, Bryan Adams, John Waite, Dinosaur Jr., The Moody Blues, Billy Idol, Paula Abdul, Britney Spears, Afghan Whigs, Guns N Roses, Jimi Hendrix, Don McLean, Pantera, Megadeth, Janice Joplin, Jim Morrison, Wilco and more.

Better?  Summarizing seems almost harder than writing the book was.  It’ll make a heck of a lot more sense once you’ve read it.  Let’s finish up by going back to something else that first reviewer said:

“Think Back to the Future.  Think The Butterfly Effect.  Think…oh just read the book already.  It’s pretty good.”

Sounds more like a blog post than a proper story synopsis, eh?