Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Route 69: A Post Mortem

Wow, so Route 69 is published. I actually finished the series back in January of 2014 (yes, 2014!), but obviously it only counts when it's posted. When I started, I didn't really think I would make it to the end, but after the sixth or seventh story, I started to feel like I had to complete it. It became a bit of an obsession.

Yes, I became obsessed ...
With finishing their story, that is!



In fact, my desire to see it 'published' was actually the main driver for me to launch a blog. I really wanted to have it out there and let folks read it all. Then it drove me to launch this New Stories blog, instead of just The Cave and waiting to post new stories until I caught up.

I just couldn't wait to catch up

I realized that even at an incredibly aggressive pace, I wouldn't reach season 3 of Route 69 until late summer or the fall. Because of how interconnected the stories were, I needed 36 stories between The Cave (9), Route 69 (18), The Cave Undercard (6) and The Adventures of SuperStar (3) to be posted BEFORE Route 69: Springfield IL in order for the narrative to make complete sense.

Don't believe me? Well, Los Angeles is based on Beau beating SuperStar (AoS3), which has to happen after Xaq fights Jae and makes him decide to be SuperStar. Xaq needs to lose to Camo and Mako in the Undercard. And the series can't even start without The Cave, where Ben is introduced. Ben even references meeting Cody in the Arlington story.

So given that it had been over a year since I finished writing, waiting another 6 months to start the final nine stories really wasn't an ideal situation.

I think Sean from Inner Jobber gave me my favorite description of Route 69: "A super-sexy wrestling soap opera." That made me very proud, as have all the guys who have said they feel like the characters are real people. Now that it's all posted, I wanted to re-visit it a little of the process of getting there. Kind of like my own "The Making of ..." post.

How It Started

You can thank Alex R. and Bard for the series. After The Cave 7 The Out-of-Towner, Alex R had posted:
Great choice on the model for Ben. His body and face are just hot! […] And I hope you also bring back Ben. Maybe he gets curious about the cave. […] That bubble butt would be awesome to see back!”
At the time, I knew Ben would be back in two more stories, but I appreciated the comment. Then Bard posted the following after he shared The Cave 9 Threes Company:
“I'd just like to add to the response to Three's Company how infatuated I am with the character Ben. He's the smallest man in the ring, and he nearly takes both of the big studs with an incredibly hot strategy and focus. He has to calibrate quickly at the beginning of the story, assessing these two sexy studs, their unknown (to him) history, their potential for alliances vs. grudges. And he's instantly not only game, but all-in. I'm dreaming of what he gets up to when he gets back to NY.
Thats all it took, a couple of people praising Ben to get my mind working. 


Ben's first appearance was from a hotel room on Cody's iPad

Is it any wonder people wanted to see more?

As Ive already blogged about, this happened at the same time I experienced the Route 66 TV show for the first time. The two things came together in my brain and bam, here we are two+ years later at the end of a 27-part series.

Thinking back, I realize that if Id used a numbering system, the stories would have been limitless, but ironically I probably wouldve written a lot fewer. But by using the alphabet, it meant I knew there should be 26. It made me think about the fact that I needed an official end point. Z would be it, so the story had to move towards something.

So, why the alphabetic rotation of cities? Thats a simple one to answer. I started with Route 69 1, but numbering a title with a number in it seemed really weird. So I switched to letters. Using city names was a simple solve for a story about a long road trip.

Why are there 27 (not 26) stories? I typically write in ones or threes, which is why there are 15 AWL stories, 9 original Cave stories, 27 R69 stories, etc. Why? Who knows, Im just wired that way. You could definitely look at Zanesville as one story, in the same way that Arlington and Baltimore are one story with two matches, but my official position is that we have 27 stories across 3 seasons.

The Outline:

A story like this doesnt work without some planning.


I did try to work things out

Below is my outline. Its generally close to the end product, although the final stories are a fair bit off.


Opening Arc: Ben finds his passion, Jeff gets back in the game
Arlington VA - Ben is lost, Jeff is directionless, Jeff finds old love, brings Ben along
Baltimore MD - Ben's first show, friendship explored 
Charlotte NC - Ben: past meets present, meets old boyfriend who wronged him
Dallas TX - Jeff gets his first big break 
El Paso TX – Ben finds a new kink, loses to cowboy with bondage fetish 
Fort Worth TX – Jeff finds his old kink, private wrestling club, faces owner
Gettysburg PA - Ben meets Dylan, new romantic interest, Jeff gets a big chance, but has to fight huge pro wrestler guy to get in 
Harrisburg PA - Ben has fun, casual web personals type match like vs Cody, Dylan coaches Jeff on how to get ahead, casually probes on relationship with Ben 
Indianapolis IN – Jeff: past meets present, why Jeff stopped wrestling, grudge match with former promoter
At the End of Arc 1: Ben knows what he wants/Jeff takes a step forward
Second Arc: Ben rises, Jeff falls
Joplin, MO - Ben wrestles to win his first new client, wins second client overall 
Kansas City, MO - Jeff vs the main face of the ROW, Jeff gets fucked for first time 
Los Angeles CA - vacation crossover with The Cave ... Ben vs. Jae, Jeff vs. Cody, Ben/Jeff vs. Ryan/Cody - multi-parts?
Miami FL - Ben/Dylan sex tag team vs. older personals couple, Dylan shows vicious side but Ben doesn't see it 
Naples FL - Jeff vs Kyle in locker room, main face on Kyle's side, Jeff fucked again 
Orlando FL - Jeff, seeking redemption, goes against a big, tough guy from personals, loses for fourth time this season, Dylan comforts/subtly plants seeds wrestling not for Jeff
Philadelphia PA - Ben/Dylan vs. personals guys, Dylan vicious again; angry, depressed, drunk Jeff gets into street fight, wins 
Quincy MA - Jeff wins a sex revenge match vs main face, but loses to Kyle politically 
Rochester NY - Ben on road, wins third client, Jeff is fired, Ben has to keep traveling, Jeff wants to go home, guys go their separate ways
At the End of Arc 2: Ben rising fast, Jeff heading home
Final Arc: The End of the Road - Ben succeeds, Jeff realizes his dream

Springfield MA - Months later, Ben and Dylan on their own, get into trouble, have to wrestle out of it, Ben up to six clients, proving self 
Trenton NJ - Jeff back doing construction, tricked into working for old federation in NY, realizes he has to fight to get ahead and that he loves wrestling 
Utica NY - Ben learns Dylan is a snake, Ben vs. Dylan then vs. Kyle


Virginia Beach VA - guys re-unite, return to CLAW, Ben and Terrence re-match, Jeff fights and fucks new guy who makes fun of him getting fired from ROW 
Washington DC - Ben/Terrence re-connect vs. ?, Jeff gets new offer WWL developmental, goodbye to CLAW 
Xenia OH - Jeff fights guy in new fed, Ben gets job offer from WWL, turns it down, wants to stay independent
Youngstown OH - Jeff finds a friend in new fed, Ben beats and de-collars from Beau 
Zanesville OH - Jeff gets revenge on Dylan and Kyle in hard fought battle, gets big contract from WWL, happy ending 
Zanesville OH - Ben meets older bodybuilder owner of WWL who doesn't like the fact he turned them down, Ben too rich to buy off so wrestle for Ben's services vs. access to WWL talent for Ben's clients, Ben wins, Terrence surprises Ben, happy ending
At the End of Arc 3: Ben/Terrence partners in life and business, Jeff makes it to the WWL

So as you can see, its reasonably close at the start then it veers off into new territories. Why did things change? Usually that happens when I start writing. The path just leads me in unexpected directions. For example, I knew by the time I was writing the end that Beau was popular, so I decided to put him against Jeff instead of Ben. I also decided against introducing some drama with a Vince McMahon-type character.


Beau earned his shot at Jeff

Casting

Ben was set from The Cave and I felt confident creating a spinoff for him because Adam Ayash is such a popular model. But Steve Kuchinsky was NOT the original Jeff.

What mightve been



Yes, Alex Pirolozzi was the original Jeff. I think hes hot and he looks like a tough, street-wise guy to me. I loved the fact that he had younger and older pics out there, which allowed for some different time periods, too. I even hunted for Adam Ayash pics where he looked younger so I could use them together.




It was only when I decided on the alphabet that I realized that there would be so many stories. I liked Alex, but he doesnt have anywhere near enough images out there. So rather than re-use the same ones over and over, I knew I needed another option.


You could've been a star, baby

Alex R had sent me Steve Kuchinsky and he has a ton of pics out on the web. I worried he was too blond and too pretty to be Jeff, but it seems to have worked out.


Street tough pro wrestler? I had my doubts.

I felt bad for changing the model, so I re-used Alex for Route 69 S103: Charlotte NC so all this work wasnt in vain.



Match History

One of the interesting things to me is that Ben and Jeff ended up with nearly identical records. I didnt plan it that way. Ben finished 13-6, while Jeff finished 12-6. Both guys went on a winning streak at the end, which I did deliberately. It was to correspond with their rising fortunes, although that might be rationalizing. By this point, I probably just liked them too much to have them lose.

Heres a match summary:

Ben Wins: A, C, D, E, H, L, M, S, T, T, W, X, Z1 
Ben Loses: B, E, J, O, R, U 
I'm not counting these as Ben matches, even though he saw action – C (past), G, I

Jeff Wins: B, D, F, I, M, O, P, Q, U, V, Y, Z2 
Jeff Loses: A, G, K, L, N, X

Ben’s losses are pretty evenly spaced, but half of Jeff’s take place in a four-story span at the start of season 2. That was intentional to show he was headed for trouble, which I know some eagle-eyed readers caught onto.

Timing

I didn’t start out thinking about timing, but I quickly realized that I better work it out or I’d be in trouble. So I mapped out a schedule that would hopefully make sense with the stories.


Timing was key

To keep the story in shape


It helped me with ages. The guys couldn’t stay 25 forever. It helped me with weather and thinking about things like Jeff being outside in Utica in March. Cold. Or checking to see if it’s realistic to have outdoor wrestling in October in Odessa. It is. So here’s how their year-long journey mapped out:

Hit the Road - Saturday June 1
Arlington - Monday June 3 
Baltimore - Friday June 21
Charlotte - Tuesday July 2
Dallas-El Paso-Fort Worth - Monday July 8-Sunday August 4 
Gettysburg-Harrisburg - Wednesday August 7-Sunday August 11
Indianapolis - Saturday September 7 
Joliet - Wednesday September 18 
Kansas City - Saturday September 21 
Los Angeles - Wednesday September 25 
Monterrey - Sunday September 29
Nashville - Saturday October 5 
Odessa - Friday October 11
Philadelphia - Saturday November 2 
-- Jeff birthday 26 
Quincy - Saturday November 9 
Rochester - Monday November 11
Springfield - Sunday February 9
Toledo - Friday March 7 
Utica - Saturday March 22
Virginia Beach - Friday April 4 
Washington DC - Saturday April 5
Xenia - May 17 
Youngstown - May 24 
-- Ben birthday, turns 26 
Zanesville - May 29-31

My Favorite Things

So everyone has their favorites. Just because I wrote all the stories doesn't mean I like them all equally, or in some cases at all. But let's focus on the positive. My three favorite Route 69 stories are:
#1 - Toledo OH. Absolute number one. I enjoyed writing the action. I enjoyed the "twist". I'm just really happy with how it turned out. And, it was probably the biggest factor in my decision to start this blog. I finished it in December 2013 and really wanted it to be shared. 
#2 - Indianapolis IN. The second story in Jeff's voice, I thought I did a good job with that. But mainly I liked the action, the villains and Ben helping his buddy out. It's a great example of what Route 69 was all about. 
#3 - Xenia OH. From the opening setup to the fun of the Dante character, I really enjoyed writing this one a lot. I'm really happy with how it unfolded kind of randomly, from the simple act of joining a gym to a coincidental reunion to the full-on sex stakes tag match with the underdogs winning.
My favorite lines ...
"Jeff and I are family. More than family. When it comes to him, you've got no idea what I'm capable of." - Ben, Toledo OH
"He threatens to sue me for decimation of character. No wait, that's not it. Whatever." - Jeff, Indianapolis IN
"Now there's a theory I'd like to test." - Ben (shamelessly stealing from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Springfield OH
My favorite secondary characters ...

I think the guys that stood out for me are the ones where I was able to develop a character for them, rather than having them just in for plot purposes.

Kyle (Indianapolis, Nashville, Toledo)
Dante (Xenia)

Lou (Indianapolis)
Jin (Zanesville (Ben))

Well, that’s it. More information than you ever wanted to know about Route 69.


This isn't the end of Jeff ...
or Ben in my stories

What's Next

I do have plans to revisit this world. I’ve developed a spinoff series, which I'm hoping to debut in September. I have nine stories mapped out, but I will warn you that neither Ben nor Jeff narrate or even wrestle in these stories. It's tonally different and should present a bit of a challenge for me.

So, what is it? As a reward for making it this far, I'll give you a hint.



Thanks for reading all these Route 69 stories. I hope you enjoyed the series!

Alex

10 comments:

  1. Alex R:

    Ok man. Ill just say thanks for the mention hahaha! It made me laugh hard. Anyways Ill give you a better comment a bit later. This was freaking really good!! WOW. So I have to give my 2 cents but I wanted to say that Im proud and happy to have contributed in getting this story up and running and providing you with the images so you could make it happen. We all win I think! YESSSS BRING ON THE BAD GUYSSSS!!! Just by the title Im already hyped Alex!

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    1. Well, I appreciate the help you gave, so only natural I'd recognize it here.

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  2. This was awesome!!! I've really enjoyed Route 69. Loved reading about the process. I'm excited for what's to come!

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I wasn't sure how interesting this post would be, so glad to hear you liked it.

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  3. This message really puts into perspective how much effort goes into your stories. It's so much more than just "writing" (which, by the way, your writing is PHENOMENAL!). There's also a ton planning, coordinating, scheduling, and editing -- all while trying to cater to your fans' preferences and requests and doing so within a very short timeframe. And you do it all without any kind of monetary compensation! It truly is a labor of love for you, and although you only receive comments and praise from a small group of readers, know that there are many more people out there who are great fans of your work and truly appreciate all that you do!

    Route 69 was an amazing series, and it was awesome to see Ohio (where I'm originally from) so well represented! (You must be familiar with the area, too, since not many people have heard of places likes Xenia and Youngstown!) I'm looking forward to reading more of your work, and I'm REALLY hoping we get to read more about Mike in Charlotte, NC. For me, he was one of the most intriguing characters in the entire series. He was a good guy in the past, then he disappeared, and now he's back -- completely transformed -- with intentions that aren't exactly clear. He was very mysterious, and for a while I thought Jeff was going to have to rescue Ben from him. Mike was also one of the biggest guys in the series, and I'm very interested in seeing what he can do against guys his own size like Jeff and Beau!

    And speaking of Jeff and Beau, here's hoping we see a rematch in The Cave between SuperStar's two most powerful enemies -- Nuke Man and General Bod -- to see which one of them gets the honor of destroying the hero!

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    1. I appreciate the comment. I'm glad this post is proving interesting. Yes, something like Route 69 takes a ton of planning, but I think it was worth it. It helped me and the story.

      I also appreciate the acknowledgment that this is a free blog with free stories. I enjoy writing the stories, but it's the positive comments that keep new stories coming.

      Ohio was a great end loop, especially since it has three cities so close that start with X-Y-Z. That's not easy to find.

      Funny you mention Mike. He's actually on the schedule in what I hope will be an interesting way.

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  4. "Bring on the bad guys..." Most awesome teaser ever!

    I'd say that Jeff's change in character model worked out just fine, but what would be the point, as you KNOW by now that I'm in love with Jeff!

    I LOVED seeing how much work and planning went into this. I never doubted it, but it's fun to see. I think the most impressive thing was accounting for the passage of time. Heck, there are TV SHOWS that don't put that much effort into making sense!

    And yea! Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference! :)

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    1. Thanks for all your support during the process. All the comments are really appreciated.

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  5. Man, I can't believe I missed this. Argh. Sorry for the way late response!

    It's been an amazing ride with these guys and I love the amount of effort and intricacy you put into it all. Really astonishing, and every entry has been incredibly hot.

    I've definitely been fortunate to experience them. Thanks very much for sharing your hard work with us. :)

    (And I think I might be thick or something. I never noticed that each of the cities was going in alphabetical order! Like, really. How could I not notice that?)

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    1. No worries ... appreciate the support!

      That's funny on the cities, but you're not the first. I had at least one guy via e-mail who didn't know it until I explained it. And it's not that important.

      I only did it so that they would stay in order on Bard's Google group. They never would have if I hadn't alphabetized them.

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