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Andy Frye

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  1. Ninety Days in the '90s is a story (MS complete, 8th draft) about a failed Wall Street trader-turned-record store owner who time travels to the mid-'90s to "reboot" her life. For any of you 1990s music aficionados out there each chapter is named for a seminal 1990s album or song. (Chapter 1 is only five pages. Sorry if this post is long.) Chapter 1 — Sell Out Darby looked out toward the stacks and aisles in Martin’s old record store. Nothing mattered anymore but starting over, and she was taking that and this new gig day by day. It was easily 10:45 A.M before she finally flicked on the lights, to watch each fluorescent beam brighten the quiet space, row by row. After their buzz swelled down, she walked up front to unlock both dead bolts, knowing full well customers might start rushing in around noon. Scarcely three months before she became Revolver’s new owner, everything came crashing down. Back in New York, Alan had left her, and the last few trades that killed her Wall Street career wiped the floor with her emotionally. Why she’d ever bought Twitt Coin, that fake crypto stock, left her scratching her head from Manhattan all the way back to the Midwest. At 11 Spacey arrived and removed her shaking, dumbbell-sized headphones. Her smile and perky energy broke the morning’s dense silence. “Morning, dude!” “Hey, Spacey.” Darby said back, always happy to see her. Smart, moody and unintentionally hilarious, Spacey was by far the most dependable of the three employees Darby inherited. Darby figured Spacey to be mid-twenties and pegged her more Gen Z than Millennial, because Spacey had excellent tastes in punk and ‘80s alternative. Spacey had a gift, too, of keeping Mark and Conrad in line, always making sure her fellow young music experts minded customers mulling about the store, even while they bragged about concert conquests and their own ambitious vinyl collections. Darby also loved that she swore often, hated social media, and began most days talking about the perils of pop and the goodness of old, vintage things. But today Spacey was amped up about some business left over from the prior day. “So—check it out,” Spacey said. “Something weird happened after you left.” “Something weird—like what?” “Some old guy bought up those CDs you dumped into the ‘Bargain Buys’ bin.” “Really? Which ones?” “You know. The bubblegum music.” Top 40 was one sub-genre Spacey would not go. A week before, when Darby had unpacked boxes of moving junk that unveiled some bad music she owned, she poked at Spacey, “You like Macklemore?” (Darby didn’t.) Predictably, Spacey just eye-rolled. “So, yeah,” Spacey went on, “he traded in some hair metal. Poison and Twisted Sister.” “Oh, no.” “But he took all the BTS and Jonas Brothers. We sold out our teeny-pop!” “Just so you know, I never ever listened to that stuff.” “Riiiiiiight,” Spacey joked. “How’d you end up with that crap anyway?” Darby’s ex had terrible taste, but she was rediscovering her own inner music snob. “When you’re with someone whose idea of music is flavor-of-the-month fads and one-hit wonders, their stuff ends up in yours. Especially after a breakup.” Darby barely tolerated her uptight ex’s Third Eye Blind and Maroon 5 “adult contemporary” thing. She loathed his sleazy Nicki Minaj fetish. And she hated his Nickelback, god dammit. Dumping it all into the $1 bin meant expunging the past, she hoped. “That time he brought home Smash Mouth—I should have told him it was over.” Putting it plainly, Darby proclaimed, “The 2000s were rough on me.” Spacey couldn’t waver on that point. “No shit, man.” **** Revolver Records sat in Bucktown, a neighborhood that tried and mostly succeeded in maintaining its rep as a nonconformist’s paradise. This edgy enclave was a block stocked with by-the-slice pizzerias, resale shops and brownstones, perfectly wedged between tree-line boulevards and the busiest L-train stop. Ever since the late ‘90s, Bucktown seemed to let down its guard, so the corporate world snuck in a few Game Stops and Gaps, plus a now-closed Williams Sonoma. There were way too many coffeehouses, probably six or eight, but just one record store, Revolver Records. The whole place felt like a posh hideout for twenty-somethings, maybe too a Gen-X wildlife refuge, where failed forty-somethings like Darby could flee from life’s judgments. Back 90 days already, Darby began to savor the more-fun times. At 1 o’clock Mark and Conrad stood out front, babbling ahead of their afternoon shifts. The girls could hear their histrionics through the storefront windows. Conrad: “The Clash is not a punk band.” Mark, angrily: “How can you say that?” “Proto-punk, not punk rock. Punk looks, but not punk sound.” “Wrong, wrong… wrong!” Mark argued. “The Clash were ‘band zero’ for punk!” Mark was vaping and came to work clad in a wide brassy brown tie expertly clashed against a sea-foam green button-down. In that outfit and his Nickelodeon curls, Mark looked like a short Ron Burgundy knockoff or a 1970s game show host. Conrad, old school and looking cool, finished up his hand-rolled cigarette, in battered jeans and mirrored sunglasses that made him, all svelte and handsome, look like a 6-foot-3 Lenny Kravitz. Conrad also had on one of twelve Iron Maiden shirts that defined his daily statement wardrobe. After nicotine fixes, the debate swept inside. And Mark still wasn’t having it. “The Clash were inventors and visionaries! You metalheads don’t know punk.” But Conrad had sharp opinions and sharper goals, like getting under Mark’s skin. “Man, all they did was recycle Elvis. The Clash: Favorite band of people who don’t like punk!” “What? What! How can you say that?” Mark looked for a lifeline. All three of them looked at Darby. But she didn’t know why it was on her to deliver a verdict. Just because Darby was old didn’t mean she had answers. “Music is music, boys. To each their own,” she said. “Lame!” Conrad declared. Spacey was chewing gum and blew a big, annoying bubble and popped it loud. Like every day, she would break the tension with well-placed snark. “You guys should work at the mall. I bet Hot Topic’s hiring.” **** It felt perverse now to think that Martin’s death had come, strangely, at the right time. Revolver was surrounded by hordes of youngsters eager to part with so much cash, and the business basically ran itself. Above the shop, his building had a two-bedroom apartment where Darby could live, no cost. Inheriting it all felt like a petty, terrible consolation for losing her favorite uncle. Neighbors said COVID eliminated other shops up the block, and Darby felt terrible that she hadn’t been back to visit before Martin passed. She felt guilty too—and a little like an imposter— over inheriting a minor indie rock institution that she had taken no part in building. On top of that, the upcoming Labor Day holiday marked the anniversary of her first exodus. Departures in 1996 came after Darby’s best friend Alex Spiro deserted town, and after a hot-and-cold but failed relationship with Lina. When the store closed she went upstairs and reluctantly unpacked her last lingering moving box. So far she had avoided it, knowing it held dusty keepsakes and old, sentimental things. Out of the box, Darby lifted pictures of her and Lina. They both grinned big in a photo booth strip from one night out. There were wrinkled group photos of friends and party highlights. And other things: A house key, a long-expired Illinois drivers license, papers in envelopes, including her acceptance letter from the Manhattan School of Management. And a ticket stub from Dreaded Letters’ first concert. Darby tossed the letter, but the ticket she’d have to show Spacey. Unveiling her final packed-away moments conjured her recent pasts. The big money she made back in New York no longer mattered, as she had it no more. Almost marrying a New York socialite also counted for nothing. Only starting again had meaning, and moving back created a chance. She knew her old plans to conquer the world hadn’t worked out. Maybe that crypto stock’s ticker symbol—TWIT—should have been a clue.
  2. NINETY DAYS IN THE '90s — 7 assignments 1 — STORY STATEMENT Darby Perdue is not—repeat not—experiencing FOMO. (Or, is she?) She’s failed on Wall Street and failed in her relationships. Now she’s returned home to Chicago to take over Revolver Records, a choice music Mecca once owned by her recently departed favorite uncle, Martin. Her days at the record store are fun and filled with chats and debates about music, thanks to Spacey and the shop's other colorful and opinionated employees. But Darby regrets some of her life decisions and commitment-phobia. She longs for her carefree twenties. Little does she know a time machine rumbles under her feet. Chicago 1996: Grunge is preeminent. Concertgoers are crowd surfing. Seinfeld has the world laughing. Bands like Smashing Pumpkins rescue our ears from Celine Dion and hair metal. And it's the year Darby left her music critic job—along with Lina, her true love. Darby finds and hops onto the legendary but forgotten Grey Line train, she time travels back to the '90s and ends top back in a golden age where she fits in better than ever. Once she's back, Darby wants to make amends with her long lost love, Lina, but that's easier said than done. And Darby’s got 90 days to return to the present or stay in the past forever. Both options are tempting, but Darby has to face the music. 2 — ANTAGONIST One of Darby’s dilemmas—one she also reconciles—is her commitment issues. However, in two cases in the novel there is the ex’s new lover, which serves as an antagonist, but not a major one. Perhaps to give a bad (?) but similar example, in Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, Rob’s ex Laura ends up with Ian, a peevish old hipster with terrible taste in music and clothes that irks Rob and exposes his insecurities. But as Any reader of this book discovers, Ian is not the problem, but Rob is Rob’s problem when it comes to his relationships. I did not model my story after Hornby’s, but there is a similar situation in two instances, with two relationships that Darby messes up. In each—both with Lina (her long lost love) and Rachel (her “new” girlfriend she picks up when going back to the 1990s)—Darby’s aloofness and non-commitment drives them away. And as is typical, the ex gets a new lover. But in the end, Darby gets real with her issues and finds that her breakup with Lina is easily fixed, and also could have been solved long ago—the first time she lived in the 1990s. 3 — WORKING TITLES Working titles (in chronological order) are as follows. I have settled on the final one as it is the most direct and hook-oriented. But I'm a still open to feedback. Pointless Destinations — from June 2017 to early 2019, first “final draft" and initial query. Fixed some problems with the time-travel method and rules of time travel. Hired a pricey but helpful developmental editor. Changed the gender of the protagonist for a variety of reasons. Massive Transit — Fall 2019 to mid-2020, post developmental edit. Hired a second editor to do a shorter follow-up consultation. Strengthened a major character (Spacey, Darby’s “agent provocateur” in the time-travel.) Second query round. Ninety Days in the ‘90s — Feb 2021 to June. Cut 30,000 words and some exposition. "Final" 8th draft at 78,000 words. 4 — COMPS In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle. When type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is asked at the most important interview of her career — "Where do you see yourself in five years? — she has a meticulously crafted answer ready. After nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend's marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. She turns on the news to find it is the same night but five years in the future. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig. There’s a library with an endless number of books, and each offers readers a chance to try another life they could have lived. Nora finds herself immersed with the possibility of a different one. Undoing old breakups, realizing other dreams; and she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what life is truly fulfilling. 5 — HOOK LINE Darby is a nostalgic record store owner who wishes she could grant herself “a do-over” to fix some life decisions. Once she time travels back to the 1990s, she finds difficulty breaking her old ways and commitment phobia—and also that she may be enjoying herself too much to fix her problems. (one line version, below) Darby is a nostalgic record store owner who time travels for a life “do-over”—but once she's back in the 1990s she finds that she is enjoying herself a little too much, and that's the problem. 6 — INNER CONFLICTS Darby's main inner conflict is that she has made decisions she regrets. She quickly left Chicago in 1996 for a better life in New York City, triggered by her failed relationships. But after her fiancé breaks up with her and her illustrious Wall Street career is ruined by some bad trades, she's back at square one. Taking over her uncle's awesome record store gives her a chance to rebound, plus free rent. But she feels bad about not staying connected with Uncle Martin and about blowing it with Lina long ago, and then blowing it in New York. The "back to the 1990s" trip represents Darby's "second" second chance, but also plays with themes of nostalgia and "golden age thinking" but from a Gen X music snob's perspective. Yet, when Darby makes it back to her "golden age" (meaning she actually time travels back to the '90s) she has to deal with its imperfections (which she forgot) as well as her own issues (commitment phobia, impulsive decision making, a grass-is-greener mentality) and how these effect her life. In a short list, the inner conflicts she must deal with are a mix of generational concepts: regret fear of missing out fear of commitment taking responsibility for your mistakes instead of escaping from them 7 — SCENE DESCRIPTION Sorry for the length here, but the scenery is very tied to the scene work, and action within it. Part 1. (Ch 1-6, first 30 pages), Chicago, the present. Darby runs a record store called Revolver Records, situated in Chicago's hippest neighborhood called Bucktown. She spends her days running the shop as a part of her attempt to "start over." At the shop she talks music trivia and history with Spacey, who is sort of a more fun and younger version of herself. When she gets her nerve up Darby meets up with her old friend Tam, who tells Darby that she is happily "going off-grid" for a while but without much detail. Later that day after beers with Tam, Darby meets a tavern local who babbles about an old urban legend—the Grey Line city train that time travels to other decades. All of it gets Darby's gears turning and when she discovers the Grey Line is real she plots a trip bay to '90s to remake her life in a better way. Part 2. Chicago 1996 (September- late November) Darby returns Labor Day 1996. Right before this day (the first time) her relationship with Lina ended on a bad note and her best friend Spiro had ditched her on a friends trip in Europe, deciding to stay in Paris. But she's back now, on the exact day she left and none of her friends know that she left for another life in NYC (because she does not go off to New York, that other life essentially cancelled). She snaps back in easily. She re-ups her friendships. Next thing she knows, she's crowdsurfing at concerts and inadvertently gets her old music writer job back. But after she approaches Lina—and things don't go well—Darby meets Rachel, a funny, sarcastic and beautiful redhead. Being back in the 1990s is so good Darby is not sure why she left. Had she not left, things would have been perfect—so she thinks. Part 3. Chicago 1995 and Amsterdam/Paris 1995 Out of sequence, but important scenes about how and why Lina and Darby's relationship failed, followed by a "friends trip" to Europe, where fun mayhem ensues. Spiro, a free spirit and graduate student without "a real job" and responsibility, decides not to go back to the US with Darby. Both disappointments lead her to make the rash decision to move to New York (on Labor Day 1996). Darby also has a fling with Nancy, a divorcee—and this causes problems later. Part 4: Chicago 1996 (early December) Back in Chicago, just after Thanksgiving everything seems perfect for Darby. She likes her job, loves the mid 1990s and is immersed in its music and pop culture scene. And she's got a beautiful girlfiend she thinks she is in love with. Darb's 90 day time pass device has expired, so she is stuck in the 1990s. But it's all good. Rachel returns from Thanksgiving with an announcement. Rachel is moving to Washington DC for a dream job, and breaks up with Darby. While Darby tries salvage things and suggested a long-distance relationship, maybe coming with, Rachel reveals that back home she reconnected with an old boyfriend, and that she didn't think Darby was "that into" the relationship. After being dumped and now stuck in the 1990s, Darby also finds that Lina is with someone else. She's been passed over by Lina for a preppy, bring nerd and by Rachel for a guy that Darby imagines as a glamorous but vain "surfer dude." That said, Darby's failures are her own doing and takes steps to reconcile them in her new perfect-turned-imperfect life in the 1990s. Part 4: Early 1997 A few days after New Years, Darby is plugging away at City Scene's office, writing record reviews. A guest drops in and it's Spacey, who has dropped in from 2021 "to check in" on Darby. Spacey, ever the music aficiado is also time traveling to catch some legendary concerts and gives Darby another charged time-pass device, which she can use to bail and go back to 2021 and her life as a record store owner. She's touched and happy to see Spacey, but stays for now in 1997. Weeks later, Darby is out ands about on a Saturday to review a band she once discovered called Dreaded Letters. Her favorite band is also one that becomes mega famous and could be her ticked to her own fame as a music writer. With a few hours to kill she hits a bar, then stops by Lina's house. Instead, she blows off the legendary concert and ends up getting back together with Lina. The next day, Darby tosses her time-pass device in the Chicago River, sealing her fate of staying back in the 1990s. Then again she's dealt with her issues and mostly fixed them. Part 5: 2021, Chicago Darby is an accomplished and well known music writer and is getting ready to receive a prestigious award. Lina's parents are in town to babysit their son Marty for the evening. Lina is more excited about Darby's big night than Darby is, and gives Darby a card with a lovey message in it (and they joke about this). Inside is a gift card for a new record store called Spacey's Sounds, formerly Revolver Records.
  3. About me: I have spent a decade writing about sports and pop culture for ESPN and Rolling Stone, covering everything from the NFL to roller derby. Currently, I interview athletes and sports legends for Forbes. 


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