Broken Bride
Wanna read a chapter?

Hear ye, hear ye!

The rumors* are true, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve decided, as part of the Hot Problems PledgeMusic campaign, to post a new pledge reward. You can now read a chapter of the “Broken Bride” novel-in-progress! If you go to the pledge page right now and click on the exclusive “Sci-Fi Chapter from the ‘Broken Bride’ novel!”, you will soon be granted private access to a link where you can join our hero as he makes an amazing discovery… one that just might change everything!!!!

Whether you’re interested in helping make the Hot Problems record or not, I thought this would be of interest to you as Broken Bride enthusiasts. If you are able to pledge and you read the chapter, I’d love to hear your feedback on it. As always, I appreciate your support and passionate interest for Broken Bride.

Oh… and yes, more chapters are coming soon.



*There are no rumors. I made that up for effect.


Beautiful Babies,

For those of you interested in the “Broken Bride”-inspired music I just posted about, there’s an exclusive up right now on the Hot Problems PledgeMusic page to download six orchestral tracks. I wrote them as a “film score” for the “Broken Bride” movie (that does not yet exist) and used them as inspiration while writing the novels I’m working on.

Here’s a sample for you to listen to:

And now this music can be yours. The exclusive is here:



Broken Bride “Soundtrack”; Star Wars Video!!!

Two things I thought you might be interested in:


I’ve posted a new exclusive on our PledgeMusic campaign called “Broken Bride Soundtrack.” Intriguing? Well, let me explain. In order to help keep me focused on the feelings of Broken Bride when I first wrote the rock opera, I needed some music that would inspire me. After trying all sorts of music out (including just listening to the rock opera itself), I found it wasn’t working. I wanted to hear the film score for the “Broken Bride” movie I saw in my head. SOOOO… I decided I should make it myself. I opened Garageband, and over several weeks, I used a full orchestra of sounds (strings, horns, percussion, woodwinds, everything) and made several different pieces that I thought captured the essence of various scenes throughout the story. And then I put all of it on repeat while I wrote. So now I find that I have a “soundtrack” for my story.

I’ve decided it’s time to share it with you. If you go to the Hot Problems PledgeMusic page right now and click on “Broken Bride soundtrack,” you can pledge to help us make our debut album, and I’ll send you all six tracks. Full orchestra arrangements, from the mischievous-to-triumphant overture to the wistful theme of lost love. It’ll be just like you’re watching the movie! Even though it doesn’t exist. And I decided to make it HALF THE PRICE of the 11” x 17” print of a map of the Apocalyptic city that I drew. So click on the link and check it out. If you like dramatic film scores, I think you’ll really enjoy it.


If you’re a Star Wars fan, then get ready to pee in your pants. Here’s a BRAND NEW VIDEO I made for Hot Problems’ brand new song “Party with My Friends”! I promise you, you will be blown away.

Please share the video!!! And let me know what you think of it!

That’s about all I got. Now for some chapter writing before going to work on the music for an internet game show later on tonight.



Apocalyptic City: Broken Bride Limited Edition Print!!!!

Hey guys!

I have been writing a lot recently and with the story reorganized, I’ve found many chapters I’ve already written have ended up being slotted for the second book. Because of this, at this point, I’m about 40% done with the first novel. But I’m chugging along again. It feels good to be back in the old Microsoft Word saddle.

I’ve also rewritten the prologue. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say, the whole story will be framed by a mysterious narrator peering through wormholes at the Traveler’s life. I’m excited about this little device and it adds a whole new dimension to the narrative.

BUT… the real reason I’m posting right now is because I have something I think you might be very interested in. In plotting out my later scenes, I have hand-drawn a map of the Apocalyptic city from “Save Our City” and “The Lamb and the Dragon.” The name of the city is Geminus. And I want to send you a limited-edition 11” x 17” print of it. I’m giving it away as one of the pledge rewards for the campaign I’m doing to raise money for making a Hot Problems record.

All you have to do is go to the pledge page, watch the video at the top of the page and then pledge for the Apocalyptic print. Here’s the link:

The reason I’m doing this is because I really want to make a Hot Problems full-length album, but I need help. I literally can’t afford to do it without your support. AND, a portion of the money raised after we reach our goal will go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. So please check out the page on the link above. If you don’t want to pledge for the print, then check out the other pledge rewards. If we do a video chat or phone chat for instance, I will be happy to answer any and all of your Broken Bride questions!!! YOU CAN ASK ANYTHING!!!!

So please, watch the video at the very least. I really appreciate it. Thanks guys!

Oh, and here’s what the print looks like:

Geminus: Broken Bride Apocalyptic City [colored pencil, 11x 17]



Wherefore the Silence? A baby. Hot Problems.

Dearest Broken Bride enthusiasts,

I do apologize for the marked radio silence on my end. Fear not, the novel is coming along well, but I must admit, I have been extremely distracted. This is for two reasons:

1) My wife, Phoebe, is pregnant with our first child (we aren’t going to find out the sex until it comes out - we really want to have that “It’s a…” moment; hopefully, the doctor doesn’t finish the sentence with “half-lizard person with no eyes or limbs and teeth on its face”)

The second reason is a natural result of the first.

2) When babies start to materialize in wombs, one is forced to examine their immediate priorities. Particularly because babies require things that cost money. And because of such considerations, I’ve had to move another project up from the back burner. Although I have been excited about working on this new thing for awhile, my first passion is most certainly the novel. 

But let’s be honest. I’m several months away from finishing it. And the fetus will turn into a baby in about three months. I need to get something going that’s a little bit more immediate, lest I be forced to abandon all professional creative pursuits and get a job in a widget factory. But I have not stopped writing. I’m just having to juggle several things at once.

In the meantime, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE EVERYBODY check out my new project:

It’s a crazy, party-dance-fun pop group I’ve started with my dear and very talented producer friend, Marc McClusky. I’m Dr. Hot. He’s D.J. Problems. And together, we are… Hot Problems.

Anyway, I spent a LONG time making what I think is a really kick-ass, hilarious, inspirational video for our new song, “People Say I’m the Man.” You can watch it on YouTube here:

If you like it, PLEASE share it with everyone you know on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. We’re hoping to make it go viral, so that Hot Problems becomes huge and I can buy my baby a new pair of shoes.

Also, if you like the music you hear, PLEASE buy it on iTunes here:

So that’s what’s new. Again, I must reiterate, have no fear. Broken Bride, the literary experience is not far off. I just need to balance it with my musical aspirations and my irritating need to provide for a miniature person whom I’ve not yet met and whom I’m pretty certain won’t even give a shit about me for several months after I do.

Such is life.

Hot Problems

Hot Problems: Two Renegades from the Future Trying to Party-Dance-Fun in the Present in Order To Save the Past

Publishing: Getting My Act Together

Two hundred forty pages in and I finally feel like I’m ready to start sending partial manuscripts off to agents. Over the past week, I’ve been revisiting the first 50-100 pages of the novel. The traveler’s “want” hadn’t been clearly enough established. His obstacles hadn’t been brought into focus. And he wasn’t taking enough action.

So I went through and tried to sharpen it all up. I don’t know much about the publishing industry, but what I do know is that agents and publishing house editors don’t have much time to screw around reading dud manuscripts. I don’t want Broken Bride to end up in the slush pile in some forgotten room somewhere. I imagine myself as an agent reading it, and ask, “If I were looking for any reason to stop reading this book, when would I put it down?”

I’m trying my hardest to make every part solid, so that anyone reading it will be intrigued to turn the page and continue on. But it’s hard, y’know? You get so used to your story and your words. It’s difficult to maintain a clear perspective so you can trim the fat. And then even when it’s trimmed, there are so many things that you feel have to be there to explain things later on, but you can’t keep them if they’re slowing the story down on the page right in front of you. 

So I keep plugging away, hoping to send something off as soon as possible. I don’t want to end up in the slush pile!!!!!!

Slush Pile

Old Man Crushed By Tsunami of Bad Books

Progress: Page 231

Hello, babies!

As I’ve said before, my chapters are ordered such that they jump back and forth between the story that leads up to the traveling (1979-2004) and the actual traveling itself. Two weeks ago, I stepped back and looked at what I’d written so far as a whole. The first 90 pages had basically coalesced as a romantic comedy, with various sci-fi scenes interspersed that sort of hinted at the strange adventures to come. This didn’t work for me.

I decided that in order for it to have teeth as a piece of mainstream fiction and whet the appetites of industry folk, it needed to grab the reader with more adventure right off the bat. So I grabbed my time traveling stuff and moved it up toward the front of the story, split up some of the longer “everyday life” scenes with sci-fi stuff, and let both narratives start to build right away. I didn’t want to take my chances that people are patient enough to sit through a lot of table setting.

I’m taking a writer’s workshop in Chicago right now, and I’ve read a lot of books on writing mainstream fiction, and they all seem to be saying similar things. Things that make a lot of sense to me. Things I already sort of intuitively understood as a reader, even though I wasn’t consciously making use of them as a writer. Stuff like this:

The character is the story; the story is the character. And you don’t have a character or a story without wants, obstacles, and actions.

WANT: Every scene must be driven by a character’s want: a clear, well-established objective that feels to them and the reader like it’s life-or-death. Not literally necessarily, but the want has to mean everything to the character. If it doesn’t, nobody cares: “Susan just kinda thought she might want Chinese food maybe, but she wasn’t sure” is not a good want. But whatever it is, there must be a want. Without one, there is no story. If somebody has everything they want in life, there’s nowhere for the story to go. We’ll just be watching the characters enjoying themselves. And watching happy people does not make for a good story.

OBSTACLE: Then, there must be an obstacle to that want. Think up a story where there’s no obstacle to the character’s objective. Barry decides all he wants in the world is to go to Disneyland. The next morning, his father comes in and says, “We’re going to Disneyland.” Barry does to Disneyland. The end. That story sucks. No. We want the character to have to overcome numerous difficulties and hardships on his way to reaching his goal. We want Barry to be told that he will never make it to Disneyland. We want him to suffer. That way, when he finally succeeds (if it’s a happy story where he actually does get what he wants), the resolution is so much sweeter. Also, to satisfy the big want, there must be other little wants: little steps along the way. If you want to climb a mountain, you first have to train, and then when you get there, you have to make it to base camp. And then when you’re actually climbing, you have to make it the next hundred yards over and over. Scene by scene, there have to be little goals that lead to the big goal.

ACTION: The character must then take action: to either overcome the obstacle, defend against it, or avoid it. If Barry just simply accepts that he will never go to Disneyland, the story is over. He has to do something to get there. If the obstacle is another person, they have to do something to stop him. Characters have to do things, or else nothing happens.

REPEAT: And whatever that action is, there must be a subsequent obstacle or the character must find a new want. The cycle of want-obstacle-action must keep repeating until there is some resolution, regardless of whether it’s a happy ending or a painful one, regardless of whether the character learns something and changes or not.

HENCE, CONFLICT: That cycle of want-obstacle-action breeds conflict. And although no one wants it in real life, that’s what everybody wants from a story. Conflict is the essence of drama. And one or all of those things needs to be present on every page of every scene. It must always be clear who wants what, what is preventing them from getting it, and what they’re doing about it. 

RAISING THE STAKES: And the stakes have to be high. The higher the stakes, the more the reader cares. When things are getting boring in a story, someone needs to pull out a gun. Not literally necessarily, but as often as possible something needs to happen that intensifies the drama, that makes the conflict more important, that makes the want more threatened, the obstacle more dangerous, and the action more desperate.

So after re-ordering my chapters, I’ve been going through trying my best to put a “gun” in every scene, to make the characters’ wants clear and intense, to make the stakes higher and the obstacles and actions bigger. I want every page to compel the reader to turn to the next. Otherwise, they’ll just stop reading. 

And that’s not good.

Disneyland was all Barry had ever wanted

Progress: Page 191

This Cretaceous research took me a long time. Like ten days. I get really anxious when I’m not churning out pages, so the past week-and-a-half has been nerve-wracking for me. But here’s the good news: I’ve got all my Cretaceous scenes mapped out now. I know what’s happening when with whom and how. And I just finished battling through my first Cretaceous scene too! Yeah, I’m proud of myself. Sticker. Cookie. Dukes of Hazzard after school.

Meanwhile, I spent most of last week in Boston. Why, you ask? 

More research, beeotch! Checking out places in Massachusetts for the traveler to live, go to school, work, hang out, etc. Need real details on this stuff, people.

Although, I did learn an important lesson: there are no sea-cliffs in Massachusetts. None. I even checked topographical maps of the whole coast. I’d have to go to Maine or Rhode Island or something, and that just wouldn’t work with the logistics of the rest of the story.

Which brings me to a juncture in the road. Do I go through the pains of changing a whole lot of the story in the spirit of accuracy…? OR, do I cut myself some slack and just “imagine” that there are sea-cliffs in Massachusetts?

I think I need to give myself a break on this one. I’m just gonna make it up. I haven’t fibbed or taken a short-cut on anything over the past 10 months, so I think I’ve earned it: one little white lie. Meeting adjourned.

And so it was that Andrew Volpe bullshat a non-scientific detail for the first time in his trilogy. I hope nobody freaks out.

Still, I’m well aware that some douche is going to read the book and then e-mail me and say, “Hey man… FYI, you’re wrong, there aren’t any sea-cliffs in that part of Massachusetts… your book is inaccurate,” to which I will reply:

1.) There are sea-cliffs wherever I say they are in Massachusetts.

2.) The story is about time travel and your only factual gripe is about sea-cliffs?

and 3.) You’re a douche.

Actually, I’ll probably just say #3. So go ahead, guy. E-mail me and talk smack. I’m cutting myself slack here and there’s nothing you can do about it. I am not afraid to call a random person a douche over the internet. It’s really not hard to do. But if you don’t want to be considered a douche by the relatively unknown author of a yet-unwritten sci-fi trilogy, then try to just suspend disbelief.

There are sea-cliffs in Massachusetts, okay?

Don’t be a douche.

Sea Cliffs (cliffs by the sea)

Douche (you)

Research: The Cretaceous

Greetings tumbly Tumblrs,

Having written fourteen chapters and a prologue of the novel, I’ve been spending this week fully submerged in the Cretaceous Period (145 to 65 million years ago). After ordering several science books on Amazon, I’ve been pounding through them, absorbing all I can and taking notes as I go. The books include: The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs, a book on the Cretaceous, two books on pterosaurs, a book on insects and disease in the Cretaceous, and a time travel novel set in (well, you guessed it) the Cretaceous.

I’m trying not only to come up with what pre-historic characters the traveler will encounter, but also a vivid, accurate, believable world. What would it actually be like for a human being to land in this alien setting? There was less oxygen to breathe. The sun appeared brighter during the day and it would have been considerably hotter. The moon appeared larger. Surface ocean temperatures reached well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. There was intense volcanic activity. And of course, land animals were often enormous.

Obviously, I have to address dinosaurs. They were everywhere and the majority of the most well-known species thrived during this period. But it’s all about details, people! Curious details. Dinosaurs, my dear darlings, were not the only living things in the Cretaceous.

The big bastards definitely ruled the earth, but there were plenty of other massive vertebrates bumming around. Fifty-foot crocodiles, 10-foot salamander-like amphibians with sharp teeth, 15-foot turtles, 30-foot constrictor snakes, 50-foot mosasaurs (ocean-dwelling lizards) with fins and nasty teeth, 25-foot long sharks, foot-wide frogs, and pterosaurs that reached up to 45-foot wingspans. I mean, Jesus.

But that’s not all - things got weirder. Evolution was turning dinosaurs into birds. Dinosaurs had feathers. Some even had wings. Birds had teeth. Flowering plants were just starting to develop. Ginormous pine forests dominated the landscape: dim, dense jungles stuffed with ferns and all manner of whatnots. Bees lived solitary lives. Beetles ruled the earth.

And it was disgusting. Bacteria was rampant. Everything was covered in mold. Huge things were killing and eating other huge things all over the place. Insects began devouring a dead body almost immediately after death. Bugs attacked feces at lightning speed. Biting flies were custom-made to rip through thick flesh and draw blood. Mosquitoes came in clouds and infected dinosaurs with horrible diseases. Whole herds succumbed to bloody vomiting and dino-diarrhea. Massive things died constantly. Even for the healthy herds, the landscape was littered with unimaginably gargantuan piles of feces. There was literally shit everywhere.

It was a dangerous place to be for a naked ape. Or really for any mammal. Mostly marsupials, mammals in the Cretaceous were rarely bigger than a squirrel, and their lives sucked. They were relegated to foraging and hunting by night, and they had to hide in burrows all day long from the terrifying beasts outside. They were basically dinosaurs’ bitches. It wouldn’t be until after the K-T extinction that land mammals would come into their own and start evolving into hilarious, goliath-type creatures. Fortunately, early humans killed almost all of them off so that none of the rest of us ever got to see them. Early humans were dicks.

Still, imagine being a human that had to contend with carnivorous theropods like T. rex, utahraptor, and spinosaurus. They would hunt you, stalking you through the trees, and then they would ambush the shit out of you and eat your whole body. Velociraptors probably looked like huge douchebags with their weird feathery wings and tailfeathers, but you wouldn’t be laughing when one eviscerated you with its ten-inch retractable toe claw. Maybe you’d be trampled by a stampeding herd of 100-foot sauropods like brachiosaurus. But hey, you didn’t have to worry about those four-legged, plant-eating ornithopods like gentle triceratops. He was only the size of a small bus and probably extremely territorial. Hey look, it’s a baby triceratops! So cute. Oh wait, you got too close and its mother just put her horn through your throat. But what about this ankylosaur? He looks so silly. Maybe you could just pet him a little bit. Oops, he hit you in the face with his clubbed tail, exploding your head off your body like a watermelon at a Gallagher show circa 1985. Yeah. Those herbivores sound like bad news too. None of it sounds good.

There’s so much to harvest with all this awesome Cretaceous stuff. So naturally I have been inspired to expand. Before I did all this research, here were my only notes for the upcoming chapter:

"Traveler wakes up in strange world, looks around, is freaked out, something crazy happens, ends up in cave."

Hm. What do I do with that, you ask? I add six chapters of pre-historic mayhem.

And that’s that.

the Cretaceous Period

Cretaceous dinosaurs, all hanging out together as one happy group of friends (a.k.a. total bullshit)

Progress: Page 175

Monday night, my wife and I got back from a four-day trip to Santa Barbara, where we were celebrating our one-year anniversary. We went hiking and wine-tasting and hang-gliding and beaching and to delicious dinners and we got to see Tommy and the High Pilots play a hometown show. Who knew an anniversary could be so damn exciting?! I thought the state of Illinois would just send us a certificate congratulating us on not getting a divorce. Yeah, this marriage thing is a piece of cake. Next sixty years? No problem….

Between weddings and other random event trips, I’m actually ending up out of town six weekends straight. Gah. While it’s nice to get away, the constant traveling is intense. I’d like to just be home for a weekend. Not to mention that the constant interruption to the schedule is taking a toll on my writing flow. I’m just not getting enough done fast enough! I should be flying through these pages, but I keep getting bogged down. Then again, I guess I have written sixty pages in the past three weeks, so that’s not so bad. Or is it? Who knows? 

It’s been a productive couple days. I finally got all my stuff together to write the two most recent chapters, and then between Tuesday and yesterday, I blasted through about 28 pages. I felt like Kurt Warner hitting Isaac Bruce for a 70-yard touchdown after a quarter of 2-yard gains.

Anyway, I just wrote a TON of dialogue. It was one of those chapters where you need to explain some principle or idea that’s crucial to the story, and it’s really hard not to just write one long monologue where a character explains everything. Particularly in a story filled with so much sciencey stuff. So I tried to make it as natural as possible, and as easy to understand. But who knows. Wormholes, dimensions, space-time, superluminal travel, particle collision, time dilation, time travel paradoxes, many-worlds interpretations, alternate realities… I kinda just did an overview of all of it in like twelve pages. Now that I say that out loud, I’m starting to think it might be too much to digest in one chapter. Whatever. That’s why it’s a first draft, bitches!

Anywho, I’m excited because I just got several books in the mail I’ve been waiting for on the Cretaceous Period - including an illustrated encyclopedia of pterosaurs! Some of the reading in these books is quite technical and dense, but I think I can hack my way through it. 

Alright team, I’m off to go compile a shitload of research on pre-historic flora, insects, atmosphere, sauropods, and geology. Have a good one!


The largeness of Azhdarchidae

Progress: Page 153

So I think I’m about a third of the way through my first draft. Woohoo celebration? Or “I’ll never finish” tears? It’s been slow-goin’ over here at the Broken Bride Ranch. Well, at least in terms of writing actual pages.

It gets to be frustrating, y’know? It’s like I know that on a particular day, I’ve got to tackle what’s in these three boxes. But then I open the first box and there’s so much more stuff in there than I thought there would be. So I hack away at it, and then by the end of the day, I’m really proud of everything I accomplished. But then I realize I barely made it through the first box, barely a third of what I wanted to.

It’s maddening in a lot of ways. The path always disappears around a bend and then reveals a new obstacle - it’s never what you think. It’s just taking TIME… and no one has an infinite amount of that. 

Anyway, so I got to the beginning of Chapter 13 and realized I had a lot of stuff to straighten out.

1. I was suddenly jumping ahead in time to a new period, so I needed to reference my cultural backdrop and come up with what was going at the time in music, movies, television, news, sports, etc., etc.

2. I needed to dress everybody. So I did a bunch of research on vintage clothing, coming up with everyone’s outfits and accessories based on styles at the time and each character’s personality.

3. I was introducing a new character, so I had to review their whole background and figure out how my original plans for them fit in with what I needed them to be now.

4. Since it was a point several years forward in the story, I needed to figure out exactly what everyone had going on at the time: what was happening in their personal/professional lives?

5. I needed to come up with things specific to the setting. What was a real place like this that existed in this city at the time? What sort of real props would they have had at the time in that place? If I had them drinking a soda, I wanted to know what kind of soda was popular in that year in that area.

6. Since the scene lacked a major conflict and served mostly to develop characters and backstory, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to introduce some… dut-d-d-da (trumpet fanfare)… SCIENCE! After all, there is an element of science-fiction to the story, there being time travel and all. So I started figuring out what scientific ideas I could cover in the dialogue.

which led me to…

7. I realized I hadn’t yet distributed the science I needed the reader to learn, throughout the chapters. Furthermore, I realized I still needed to work out when the traveler learns what: when does he have which epiphany? when does he work out a specific theorem? when does he prove that theorem experimentally? when does he explain it to others?

So it was all a mess. I found myself ill-prepared to begin the chapter. So I’ve tackled all those things over the past few days. And now, with all those tools in hand, I can just start weavin’ that magic. If that’s what you call my first-draft writing. I don’t think it is. I think you would call it more of a mental bowel movement.

And so I poop.


Science, as it were

Progress: Page 147

So yeah, I just went to Taco Bell. I ordered two cheese quesadillas with jalapeños inside and a large Diet Mountain Dew. 

There’s just something about their cheese quesadillas when you add jalapeños to them. I think it’s the jalapeño sauce that comes on it that seals the deal. So good. I usually eat one on the way home, and then the other one downstairs in my office. Then I nurse my Diet Mountain Dew for an hour or so. I am a huge proponent of quality fountain sodas.

But these tidbits of fast foodery are neither here nor there. I am writing a book!

So I started the day with 139 pages. Ground had just been broken yesterday on Chapter 12, and between 8:00 this morning and 3:00pm, I rattled off eight pages to finish it. Good job, Andrew. Everyone is proud of you. Here’s an m&m.

I was displeased this morning. We hired a cleaning service, and since all three dachshunds tend to shriek and roar and generally make horrible sounds at every living thing that’s not my wife or me, I took them down into my office with me while the lady was upstairs working. I step out for five minutes, come back, and there have been two bowel movements and two urinations on the carpet.

I said, “You’re fucking kidding, right?”

They did not respond. They just looked guilty. Except for Oscar, the “mentally unavailable” miniature. When I said it, he began to prance as though I had just said, “Pizza party, pizza party!” Whether they speak English or not, my tone should have been quite recognizable to any mammal that I was not advertising a pizza party.

I’m glad I didn’t replace the carpet after 7 inches of rain flooded our basement last month. If they had crapped on that, I would have fallen to my knees, held out my arms, and yelled “No!!!” up to the heavens, like an action hero mourning the death of a loved one in the rain, before he goes to seek revenge.

But yeah, the book is going well. Trying to balance out my voice. Sometimes I’m writing very “poetic” description, other times I’m hammering through fast-paced dialogue or action. I just want to make sure it’s not too herky-jerky. Good news is it’s just a first draft. One thing is certain: I’m gonna have to thin this mother out on my first edit.

I tend, as an “artist” (ha! artist…), to throw in everything, including the kitchen sink, when I make something, and then go back and trim it down later. I prefer a subtractive editing process to an additive one. I’d rather have to take something out than to have not gone far enough the first time. That’s how I’ve always made records, that’s how I’ve always written lyrics, that’s how I’ve always approached acting roles, and to be quite honest, that’s how I intend to approach my fatherhood: make as many babies as possible, and then pick and choose the winners later - say, around puberty.

Anywho, that’s where I am. Just wrote a bunch of sci-fi stuff. It was a welcome break after a couple chapters of funny-fun character development stuff. But now, fortunately, I’m ready for some more funny-fun. This whole interspersing approach is really working out well for me as a writer, jumping back and forth. The jury is out as to whether or not it’s too split-personality for a reader however. But that can be solved by re-ordering chapters, mellowing out the extremes of each type of writing, and coming up with sweet-ass transitions.

I hate all of you.*

Remnants: Taco Bell - Two Cheese Quesadillas with Jalapeños, Diet Mountain Dew (Andrew Volpe, 8/25/11)

*No, I don’t.**

**I actually love you

Cultural Backdrop: August 1979

Earlier this year, I spent nine weeks compiling a glut of information that would serve as a cultural backdrop for the story. I wanted to make sure the story felt real, tethered to the life of the times. So I made a spreadsheet. It included a row for:

- every year from 1870 through 1923

I wanted to establish a genealogical history before his parents were born, as well as listing important events (news stories, book publication dates, scientific discoveries), that would ultimately shape the Traveler’s life and his family history. 

- every month from 1924-1960 (from his father’s birth through the Traveler’s birth)

A more detailed account of all things culture, as well as personal history, that would have shaped the lives of the Traveler’s parents. That way, I could have a realistic idea of what sort of emotional environment and context the Traveler was raised in, and what sorts of ideologies and tastes his parents would have had that influenced his upbringing.

- every week from 1961-1978 (from the Traveler’s birth through the start of the story), AND

Throughout his actual life, I thought it was important to have an even more detailed, week-by-week breakdown of every aspect of the world that was changing around the Traveler: cultural context, world/national/local events, personal history, etc. That way, I could develop his tastes and personal growth from birth through the end of high school.

- every day from 1979-2005 (from the start of the story through the end of the story). 

And finally, I expanded the spreadsheet to account for every single day over the course of the story - 365-1/4 days per year for 26 years of everything that happened in the Traveler’s world - for the masses, and tailored to the characters’ individual interests:

     - music (radio charts, album releases)

     - movie releases (in theaters and on video)

     - television (regular programming, major televised events)

     - book publications

     - sporting events

     - milestones in art

     - inventions and scientific discoveries

     - costs of various items

     - general culture (fads, slang, trends)

     - everyday fashion 

     - the state of the economy

     - who held major national, state, and local office

     - local events 

     - U.S. political events (important legislation, elections)

     - international events (major conflicts, etc.)

     - national/local weather (averages, major events)

     - major disasters (natural and manmade)

     - major crimes

     - and holidays/birthdays

Our story begins in August of 1979:

Jimmy Carter is president and the economy is still treading water after a decade of recession and stagnancy. 

For a few years now, NASA’s Voyager space crafts have been sending back the first close-up photos ever captured of bodies in our solar system. Laboratory production of human insulin has begun. The world’s first test-tube baby has been born. The first PC has been on the market for two years. Apple II Plus PC is on the market.

Robert Ludlum, William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut, and Stephen King are on the bestsellers lists. 

Just two years earlier, violent protests to desegregation busing programs for public schools plagued Boston. 

ESPN is about to launch on cable. Muhammad Ali has just retired. In March, a young Magic Johnson outscored a young Larry Bird as Michigan State beat Indiana State in NCAA Championship game. It’s Lou Brock’s last season in Major League Baseball. It’s Rickey Henderson’s first. The Baltimore Colts, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Houston Oilers are all NFL teams.

New music: Sex Pistols, Chicago, Sammy Hagar, Bob Dylan, The Alan Parsons Project, Randy Newman, Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffett, Led Zeppelin (In Through the Out Door), Michael Jackson (Off the Wall), Talking Heads (Fear of Music), AC/DC (Highway to Hell), Van Halen (II), Gloria Gaynor (I Will Survive), Blondie (Heart of Glass), Anita Ward (Ring My Bell), Bee Gees (Love You Inside and Out), Chic (Good Times), The Knack (My Sharona). Bob Dylan proclaims his Born Again Christianity. Sony Walkman is now on sale in Japan. Disco is dying. New wave and punk are thriving. 

Paul Volcker appointed as new Federal Reserve Board Chairman. The Soviets perform a nuclear test in Eastern Kazakh. Saddam Hussein executes 21 political opponents. Phnom Penh court sentences Pol Pot to death for the genocide of the Khmer Rouge regime. Iranian troops enter Iraqi Kurdish territory, leading to the Iran-Iraq War. Bombings in Northern Ireland. Nicaragua in civil war. Margaret Thatcher is first female prime minister of the United Kingdom. 

Hurricane David devastates Dominica, prepares to hit central Florida coast. 

Vivian Vance (Ethel from “I Love Lucy”) dies at 70. Popular TV shows: All in the Family, Barney Miller, Taxi, M*A*S*H, Mork & Mindy, Lou Grant, The Paper Chase, The Rockford Files. 

New movies: The Deer Hunter, Hair, Dawn of the Dead, Manhattan, Alien, Phantasm, Rocky 2, The In-Laws, The Muppet Movie, Moonraker, Meatballs, Breaking Away, The Amityville Horror, More American Graffiti, Apocalypse Now, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian.

Gallon of gas is 86 cents. The Dow is hovering in the 800’s. Average monthly rent is $280. Average income per year is $17,500. A pair of running shoes costs $14.99.

Jimmy Carter, live broadcast of his “Crisis of Confidence Speech,” July 15, 1979

first close-up pictures of Saturn, taken by Voyager II, July 31, 1979

Michael Jackson, Blues & Soul & Disco Review, August 28, 1979

Character Profile: The Traveler’s Father

Franklin Patrick Liridon

Occupation: Lieutenant-Colonel, U.S. Army

Born: July 3, 1924 (St. Louis, MO) 

Died: January 21, 1979

Ethnicity: Irish 50%, 25% Albanian, 25% French

Religion: non-religious

Politics: Conservative

Background: After his abusive father (an unemployed, alcoholic gambler) walked out in 1930, only-child Franklin was raised by his young mother. Unable to pay rent, they spent most of Franklin’s childhood living in St. Louis’ Hooverville (a Depression-Era shanty town) on the banks of the Mississippi River.

While working odd jobs to help pay the rent, he enlisted in the army at 18 and was deployed to the front lines of WWII, where he stormed the beach at Normandy and was captured and held as a POW for four months at a concentration camp. After the war, he found employment as an ironworker in St. Louis until 1951, when he re-enlisted to fight in the Korean War.

Upon completing his tour of duty, he enrolled in and graduated from the Army’s Officer Candidate Program in Georgia. Subsequently, he and his wife, Irene, were moved by the Army to Fort Carson, Colorado. Shortly after his promotion to captain, the couple was relocated to Fort Dix, New Jersey. Franklin, who had never wanted to be a father, was displeased when his wife reported she was pregnant in May of 1960. 

St. Louis Hooverville

Character Profile: The Traveler’s Mother

Irene Katherine Liridon (nee McDermott)

Occupation: registered nurse

Born: October 27, 1930 (Chicago, IL)

Ethnicity: Irish 75%, Scottish 25%

Religion: Catholic

Politics: Conservative

Background: Irene was born in 1930 to an 18-year old Joliet, Illinois native, Roslyn Kane McDermott (studying to get her teaching certificate), and Ernest Allan McDermott, a 31-year old office clerk.

     When Irene was 13, the family moved to St. Louis. After graduating from Rosati-Kain Catholic Girls’ High School in 1949, Irene enrolled in Saint Louis University School of Nursing. Shortly thereafter, she met ironworker and WWII veteran, Franklin Liridon (25), whom she married six months later at 19.

     While her husband was deployed in Korea, she graduated nursing school and began working at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. When he returned, the couple re-located three times in five years to end up in Fort Dix, New Jersey, where Irene got a nursing job at Deborah Hospital, not far from the army base.

     In May of 1960, the couple was surprised to find that Irene was pregnant.

St. Louis University School of Nursing, Class of 1952