Thursday, October 30, 2014

Another good grad school memory: Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin

For several months I've been too scattered to do much other than tweet, write the occasional blog post, and--oh yeah--do my day job. But now I'm thinking about resuming work on my third novel, while Novel the Second seeks a home. I was about 40 pages in, last time I touched it, and it's at least partly inspired by what scholars have called the first American novel: Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown.

The cool thing to realize about this novel, first published in 1798, is that it's about a ventriloquist who drives a man to murder his family by making him think God is speaking to him. Yep, the first American novel is a (sort of) paranormal/religious/serial-killer thriller, which reflects fears of democracy and the "voice of the people." It's great stuff, and the prospect of revisiting Wieland is exciting enough to get me back in the writing chair. Religious nuttiness + ventriloquism. What can go wrong?

I see my book-in-progress as a combination of this and Gogol's "The Overcoat," set in a comparative literature department--just by coincidence.



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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Bigfoot and the Baby at Litquake, Monday, October 13

Just found out I'm on the "First-Time Authors Reveal All" panel at this year's Litquake! I'll be chatting with Amrit Chima and Edan Lepucki at 3 p.m. the Foundation Center in San Francisco. Follow the link to pre-register.



Update: Here's a great write-up of our conversation from an attendee, writer and blogger Clare Ramsaran.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why is Bigfoot scary (and funny)?

Just in time for Halloween, I contemplate this pressing question over at G. G. Andrew's Writers Who Read blog.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Thursday, October 2: Bigfoot and the Baby at Books, Inc. Palo Alto

This Thursday, join us at Palo Alto's favorite indie bookstore, Books, Inc., at 7 p.m. I'll be reading and chatting with Tanya Landsberger about cryptozoology, consumerism, and comedy. We'll also have wine and, I believe, a very special ale.

Hope to see you there!






Thursday, September 25, 2014

The evolution of Jackie Majesky

This is a blog hop, y'all. I'm taking the hand-off from Shelly King, whose debut novel, The Moment of Everything, came out this month from Grand Central. It's a funny and quite touching story of a Silicon Valley geek who finds her true calling--and family--at a used bookstore. Buy it at your favorite indie shop!


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Now, here's an introduction to the main character of my novel, Bigfoot and the Baby. I should note that neither Bigfoot nor the Baby is actually the main character, but they are both significant characters. And you could argue that the novel has three main characters, since at various times we're inside the head of Jackie, her husband Kyle, or their daughter Katie. But I consider Jackie to be the lead, since she's the one who (I believe) undergoes and also brings about the greatest change.

I've been told she's not the easiest character to like. She certainly would be a difficult friend to have, which is possibly why she doesn't have many, at least at the novel's beginning. She's fearful, judgmental, grandiose, a little desperate. When the novel opens, she has recently latched onto an apocalyptic brand of Christianity as a way of channeling her unfocused fear and sadness, and she's trying to convince her family that the end is nigh. But they have other priorities, which she cannot understand for the life of her.

Is Jackie like me? In all but the religion, well, yes. I gave her some of my worst qualities (amplifying them, I hope, beyond their normal measure). But I also gave her a lot of my hopes--to do something important with my life, to make the world a better place, to love and be loved, fully and sincerely. And I have a lot of sympathy for women who feel they were somehow born in a place that was too small for them--who tried to do what they thought was the right thing, only to find it wasn't the right thing for them.

Jackie's world does get bigger, in a way that's currently impossible in the universe we inhabit. However, what really matters is that Jackie grows a bigger heart and a much wider field of vision by the end of the novel. I didn't necessarily expect that--but she had that in her from the beginning.

So I hope you had fun meeting Jackie.

Next up, another writer about difficult women: Vicki Addesso, one of four authors of Still Here Thinking of You. It's a clear-eyed, heartbreaking, yet hopeful memoir about daughters and mothers.

Look for Vicki's post next Thursday! Here's her Tumblr.



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UPDATE: Another bloghopper has joined us! Lawrence Coates, the author, most recently, of The Garden of the World, writes about his forthcoming novel, The Goodbye House, here.



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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What did I see today?

A few months back, I published a piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books about Yuri Olesha's memoir in fragments, No Day without a Line. At the end, I suggested that I planned to try the same experiment: keeping a notebook--offline--in which I wrote every day. The purpose was not only to recover a purer experience of writing in the midst of constant distraction, although that was part of it. I wanted to write in a way that placed me in a larger context than just inside my own head. I wanted to record, for better or worse, "the times."

I'm sure you've all been on the edge of your seats, wondering: How's it been going? Did she do it? Has she written every day? What are those little handwritten gems really like? Answers: So-so. Yes. No. I was amazed how quickly I regressed to my previous journal-writing habits, which is why I gave up the practice in, oh, 1995. The thing became, far more than I had hoped,  Compendium of Complaints. A Litany of Laments. A Chronicle of Cranky. It's not that I ever intend these pieces to be published in this form (unlike Olesha, who was ultimately writing for publication). It's the ease with which I tumble into the black hole of solipsism as soon as I believe no one is looking.

On one hand, I obviously need some space for blowing off steam, and perhaps writing it is better than dumping it on, say, one's husband night after night. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that "venting" is really all that helpful in and of itself. And the writing it produces is altogether useless.

What to do? The solution I've come up with is, no matter what I've written previously, before I close out the daily blurb, I ask myself: What did I see today? This is a variation on one of Olesha's fragments. And it forces me to think of something, even something very small, that I've observed. Often I find myself writing about it at some length. For example, yesterday I recalled seeing, during my daily walk around the neighborhood, a film crew setting up on someone's lawn. Why? I don't know. But then I began recalling details, like a man entertaining a child (his daughter?) by placing her in the driver's seat of his car. I presume he was trying to keep her out of the film crew's way. But who knows?

Anyway, I would have entirely forgotten about that if all I'd allow myself to do was grouse. Just a suggestion for those of you seeking a way to get words on a page.



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Monday, September 08, 2014

Hovering and recovering

Ah, my poor, neglected blog. For the past two weeks I've been on vacation, trying and largely failing to say away from all electronic communications. The need to promote the book hovers, always, like a mild illness. I am not doing enough. I know I am not doing enough. But I cannot make myself do any more. Well, maybe a little more. Like what? I don't have the foggiest. Well, I kind of do. More appearances. More approaching strangers, offering the irresistible chance to meet me. More guest posts. More tweets (about what?). More Facebook (god help me). More ... just more.

It's certainly not the worst fate to befall anyone. And I brought it on myself. Maybe I'm even getting a little better at it. Then again, is it working?

Anyway, here's a picture from our trip to Olympic National Park. It was a beautiful day at Hurricane Ridge.

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