#1 Record

While trying to convince Jon Mack to listen to A Love Extreme by Benji Hughes last week I mentioned that it had taken over my favorite album of all time slot.  He immediately pushed back that it was a little early for that bold of a claim, citing that Music by 311 was once a favorite that went by the wayside.  (For the record, Music may have been in my top 5 at some point years ago, but never #1.  #1 is sacred…)

The whole exchange got me thinking about that fabled top slot, eventually yielding the realization that only 3 albums have ever held this title:

Nevermind — 1992 – 2000

Skittish — 2000 – 2010

A Love Extreme – 2010 – ?

Seems to be a once in a decade event…

Keep in mind that this is different than “most listened” or “greatest ever recorded” — it’s a personal favorite at one moment in time, with the expectation that it will remain the defending champ until something you’ve never heard before comes along and dethrones it.

Random aside:  I’m not consciously trying to turn this into “A Blog of Benji Hughesuasion” — I just really dig this musician, as evidenced by all the posts and his claiming my current #1 slot from Doughty.  But typing “Hughesuasion” makes me kick myself for not thinking to use “Nelsuasion” as the secret word in Chapter 24 of TP.  Timely Nelsuasion anyone?

Commentary: Prologue

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.

Origin Story

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)