Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with the evolution of stories. I've always been very interested in the scenes that authors cut, or names that changed, and any in-jokes that might have been made. I'm not entirely sure why I have such a fascination, but it did persuade me to create a page like this for like-minded individuals who are so inclined towards similar questions with Partners in Time.

Anytime I write a story -- be it a long novel or a short story -- I always incorporate a variety of in-jokes, and generally have methods behind my madness. Many of these in-jokes relate to names, dates, and places. PIT, being a series that I intend to spend a lot of time with, has a number of these. Below are some explanations and insight into the crazy brain of this particular writer. Be aware, possible spoilers may lurk!

NAMES: Main Characters

Samuel Michael Foster (link)

Sam's name has several in-jokes to it. From what I recollect, I settled on the first name of Sam for two reasons. One, it was the name of actor Michael J. Fox's eldest child, and he was my favorite actor. Two, it was the first name of the main character in a time travel TV show I really loved, "Quantum Leap."

Michael, Sam's middle name, is my homage to Michael J. Fox, I suppose. (And his son also has the same middle name.) My brother is also named Michael. I know too many of 'em!

Foster came about for two reasons, again. One, it reminded me a little bit of Fox. Two, according to Merrian-Webster's dictionary, the word "foster" means "affording, receiving, or sharing nurture or parental care though not related by blood or legal ties." The key words here were "" I saw Sam as the "caretaker" of Time.

Margaret Rebecca Clayton (link)

Meg's name isn't as complex or symbolic. I simply liked the name Margaret. I was given a pretty contemporary name when I was born, which I couldn't really nick that much. So I liked how you could get several nicknames from Margaret -- Maggie, Marge, and Meg, of course.

I've had a few people ask me if I bestowed Meg's name on her as a nod to the fact that the character of Marty McFly's mother was named Meg in a very early draft of the original Back to the Future screenplay. (Seeing as I do have many BTTF in-jokes scattered in the books.) The answer to that question is "nope." By the time I learned about the name coincidence, PIT1 had already been published. It was simply "an amazing coincidence" (in the words of Doc Brown). When I heard this piece of trivia for the first time, in December 2002, I actually cringed a little, knowing that people who knew me would assume that Meg's name was selected for an in-joke reason as that.

Meg's middle name, Rebecca, is partially due to that being her mother's first name. But why Rebecca? I suppose the phrase "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" is partially to blame. (Though I've never read the book...yet.) It just seemed fitting.

Clayton is my blatant homage to the Back to the Future film series, of which I am a massive fan. Doc Brown falls in love with 1885 schoolteacher Clara Clayton.

Alexander Martin McCoy (link)

Alex's name is basically a labor of love. I love the name Alexander, perhaps for the same reasons as I love Margaret -- a great, formal sounding full name, and nice nicknames out of it. (Alex. Xander.) Also, Alex was the name of Michael J. Fox's character in "Family Ties."

Martin is another homage to Back to the Future. I see Alex being like Marty McFly in physical appearance.

McCoy has two aspects to it. One, it's the married name of my childhood best friend. And since Alex is Sam's best friend since childhood, it seemed fitting. McCoy also reminded me of McFly...which is related, of course, to the Back to the Future films.

O'Hara, Oregon

There is no such place as O'Hara, Oregon. Don't look for it on a map; it's wholly fictional. It's better having a fictional town to work in, I think. It gives you the freedom to create aspects that fit your vision and stories. I calculate the approximation of it being about 60 miles southeast of Portland, near the real-life towns of Sublimity and Silverton. I suppose that I'm basing certain parts and features of the town on my own hometown of Beaverton, Oregon.

There is no real reason for the selection of the name O'Hara. In a story that I was working on when I was 13 or 14, I dubbed my main character's hometown as O'Hara, Oregon, so I took that for PIT when it was clear to me that the story would never be completed. I liked the alliteration, I suppose.

And Oregon is the state where I was born and raised. It's also rarely mentioned in literature as the setting, so I decided to change that....

NAMES: Other Characters in Various Stories

Dave Hughes (PIT1)

Dave's original name was Buck Hughes. My choice of such a name was rooted in my past. As a child, we had some strange neighbors. One of these were the Buckmasters. The father lived alone, a divorcee, and his rebellions son (a couple years older than me) would spend summers there and be a sort of bully. The Hughes were other memorable neighbors. They had two sons who ran wild -- Troy and Derek. We called them (unoriginally) the "Phews!" because they didn't like to bathe. Ick.

Hughes was also the surname of a real psychotic girl in my freshman college dorm. She was sort of my mortal enemy. So, Hughes it became.

When I changed the first name, I was inspired by a guy who lived in my college dorm for two years. I knew two Daves from McClain Hall -- one of them is a friend of mine. The other was this decidedly offbeat guy who walked around constantly smiling. And whining about how he didn't have a girlfriend. While he was smiling. He had a kind of serial killer vibe, so it seemed appropriate to me to name someone who was mentally unstable with the same first name.

Incidentally, the Hughes character was originally written as a random, crazy carney. I have some weird ideas.

Sidney August & Virgil Lewis (PIT1)

Sometimes I choose names spur of the moment. Pretty much, that is what happened here.

One of my friends from high school had a son in 1999 that she named Sidney. Sidney was born in the month of August. Eh, what the hell. (Adding to the in-joke factor, my friend later bore a daughter in 2002, whom she named Bethany. So I used that name in PIT2 for a mentioned-but-never-seen character.)

Virgil seemed like an appropriate western name. And I think the Lewis part was inspired by singer Huey Lewis, who wrote two songs for...yes, Back to the Future.

Geoffrey of Rosemont (PIT2)

There's really no major in-jokes with Geoffrey's name. The first name seemed appropriate for the times, and perhaps was inspired by accounts written by Geoffrey Chaucer that related to Arthurian legend.

Incidentally, when one of my friends heard the name I had selected for the character, he snickered and went, "You realize that I picture the Toys R Us mascot!" Heh.

The town of Rosemont (PIT2)

I spent a lot of time thinking about the name of the fictional medieval town where I would have Sam and Meg arrive. This included the consultation of some documents about names and their meanings for that time period. I created a list of about 5 different potential town names, then I ran it by some friends. Rosemont was the favorite, with the town of Chaseney coming in second. (Chaseney was mentioned as an aside in PIT2.) Ironically, I had no idea at the time that I would have my first job interview for a teaching position in Roseville, California at Oakmont High School. Freaky coincidence, but the universe of PIT has several such those oddities.

Tobor & Diordna (PIT2)

The names of two characters at the end of the story. Read them backwards and you are instantly enlightened by information about these two characters. ;-)

Stan Wilson (PIT3)

When I was younger, I remember having a nightmare about a guy who matches Stan's description chasing me, trying to kill me. So, that's about it for that joke. I suppose his name was more of a "Hey, Mr. Wilson!" thing that just seemed appropriately random. The fact he was a lawyer was a last-minute joke, a stab at the future lawyers I know who are friends of mine.

Captain Byron Slate (PIT5)

During my time teaching in California, I spent four years at one high school. I decided to take a gamble and leave the place where I was tenured partially due to the arrival of a man who inspired Slate. The new vice principal had been a teacher at the school during my first year there, and power - let's just say it can corrupt with some individuals, and he was definitely one of them. The physical stature of Slate, as well as his "by the book" attitude, was absolutely true of the real-life person who inspired the character. I had a lot of fun with Slate, to be honest, even if I had moved on and no longer worked at that school during the writing of this book. Writing is often fantastic therapy.


There are a lot. Some are easily explained. Others...aren't. And, like the name information, I'm not going to explain every single one. My memory actually can't retain all that information offhand, and some things may be private or personal jokes between myself and two other people.


  • At the end of Chapter 2 in PIT1, Sam says, "Oh boy," when he discovers he brought someone back with him from his trip to the past. This is a blatant homage to the TV series "Quantum Leap," which had time traveler Sam Beckett say those precise words every time he arrived in a new location. I don't think a lot of people notice that joke; when I was working on the story and brought the first few chapters for sharing in a college creative writing class, two of the (nerdy) guys smirked and reacted to that, but everyone else gave me wholly blank looks.

  • I had settled on July 20th as the date of Sam's time machine success years before I met my writing mentor, and discovered that her birthdate was that very day.

  • The dates (month and day) listed as some of the "hits" that Sam gets when doing a search on the last name Clayton are all birthdates of my family: January 5 (me); June 23 (my mother); March 30 (my father); and September 30 (my brother). Obviously the years are not the same!

  • The book that Sam finds in the library, Visions of O'Hara by M.J. Watson, is obviously fictional. The author's name, however, is an in-joke towards my writing mentor (first name Mary Jean) and the handle she used on the BTTF.COM message board (Watson).

  • Sam's half sisters, Emily and Brianna, (who are mentioned, but not met) have the same first names as my only two first cousins.

  • There are a lot of jokes/nods towards the Back to the Future (BTTF) film series in this particular book. Many "Backies" have had fun spotting them. Some of them include:
    * Sam's home address, 1026 Elmdale Drive. 1026 or October 26th, is the date Marty first went back in time. And Elmdale was an alternate name for the town Marty came from in an early draft of BTTF's script.

    * Sam's dog is named after Doc Brown.

    * As mentioned previously, Meg's last name -- Clayton -- is an homage to Doc's love interest Clara Clayton from Back to the Future Part III.

    * Other names in the book -- including the names of Sam's parents and the doctor in 1850 -- are deliberate nods to people involved in the BTTF trilogy.

    * The microchip that Sam needs to fix the time machine has the serial number of BTF1105Y55 -- a reference to the date Doc Brown discovered the flux capacitor, November 5, 1955.

    * The name of the series itself, "Partners in Time," is partly an homage to Doc's inscription on the photograph he gives Marty at the end of Part III. It also fit extremely nicely with the series.

    * Cover illustrator Nicholas Murchison made his own BTTF reference -- without consulting me first! If you turn the cover sideways, the symbols on the face of Sam's time machine form a vertical DMC-style logo, a nod to BTTF's DeLorean time machine.

  • (By the way, PIT2 doesn't have as many jokes in this BTTF vein. I suppose that one may read into Sam's visit with the Fairweathers -- and the name of their young son -- as a bit of one, but it was more subconscious of me than done with deliberate intent.)


  • There's a brief part in PIT2 where Sam ends up in Eugene, Oregon. I went to college at the University of Oregon, and the Pioneer Cemetery held a special fascination for me. (I like history; what's more historic than a cemetery?)

  • Incidentally, when Sam winds up in the cemetary, the sign that he finds contains a slogan for the Lane County Historical Society. So far as I know, the slogan is not used by the LCHS, and I actually cribbed some of it from the fictional Hill Valley "Save the Clocktower" movement in BTTF. (Okay, yes, that is at least one BTTF in-joke with that tale.)


  • When I had part of the story involve Sam's high school experience, I crafted out class schedules for both him and Alex (which will likely be used again in another story and which are in my vast background files for the series). Many of their teachers had surnames of either teachers I had, or ones that had other in-jokery. Dunlap, Sam and Alex's English teacher, is the maiden name of my paternal grandmother. (Aspects of her character may be how my own students percieve me; I have no idea.) Monnier, the name of Sam's Spanish II teacher, is also the name of my creative writing teacher in high school.

  • When Sam and Meg arrive in the future for the first time, they appear in an alleyway...which is a nod towards Back to the Future Part II.

  • The name of the author of the news article about Sam is a family in-joke. I apparently was almost named Celeste, and before I was born and my gender unknown, my parents called me "Astro," after both the dog in "The Jetsons" and a cat my dad had growing up. A co-worker of my parents back then actually had a t-shirt made up for me with the nickname on it, and my parents have a few photographs of me in it as a baby.

  • The snippet from the newscaster in the future taxi is something that's also heard at the start of Back to the Future, which is another very subtle in-joke.

  • The name of Older Sam's important client in Salem, P. Lewis, is a joke towards that TV show from about 15 years ago called "Parker Lewis Can't Lose." I had the biggest crush on the guy who played Parker back then!

  • The problem with Older Sam's bedroom door was inspired by the doorknob in my childhood bedroom. It's kind of busted and has actually locked me in there (by accident) more than once. Not cool, but since I only stay there during holidays now, the parents are not too keen on fixing it.

  • Surnames of Casey and Ferrell were inspired by friends of mine. Dr. Stapleton was actually the name of my childhood dentist. And his nurse has the same last name as the department head where I worked at the time.


  • One might say that the cover art itself was an unintentional homage/nudge to Back to the Future. The art on the cover is not from any one specific scene in PIT4. Rather, it's more symbolic. Thus, you have a photograph in Sam's hand that, like the photo in Marty McFly's hand, may show changes to the timeline and his own family over the course of things. But is there any one scene where Sam is peering at a snapshot and witnessing changes? No. (And I actually have no idea if my cover artist intended to homage Back to the Future in any way, shape, or form. The finished piece of cover art does play a bit off of a concept idea I gave him for the cover.)

  • I named Meg's uncle, Darold, after a filmmaker friend of mine, Darold "Doc" Crotzer of Agenda Films.

  • Sam's mother's maiden name, Parker, was obviously a nod to Jennifer Parker, Marty McFly's girlfriend in the Back to the Future trilogy.

  • The bit where Sam and Meg arrive in the room of the little girl? Blatant homage to a similar scene in Back to the Future Part II.

  • Obviously, my choice of using the University of Oregon for some of the action was inspired by the fact I attended that college myself. (Also, I got insanely lost trying to find the campus newspaper's office the first time as a freshman there.)

  • The first name of Sam's younger brother was inspired by a guy I really, really liked. Alas, feelings were not mutual, our friendship fell apart...and I "erased him from existence" in my writing. LOL! No hard feelings, though.

  • The room number at the Sandy Cove was the date I wrote that scene. (February 13th = 2/13 = 213.) I often do this with hotel or motel numbers when I need those. Sometimes I do the same with addresses.


  • The color of the flowers Sam gives Meg at the very beginning was selected for purposeful symbolism. (Look it up if you wish.)

  • The name of the character of Jules was not chosen to homage BTTF in any way. (Doc and Clara's oldest son is named Jules, after writer Jules Verne.) It simply worked for the character and the time period.

  • Names of the various ships in the story were wholly made up, attempts to represent the captains who piloted them or the contents. As a lark, I also used this pirate ship name generator to get in the proper spirit of inspiration.

Check back and I promise this section will expand as more stories are written. As always, if you have any questions, feedback, or whatnot, please e-mail me!