Friday, January 23, 2015

News for the new year

Exciting news! I have signed with agent Cynthia Zigmund and am revising my second novel, a literary mystery set in 1970s Cleveland. It's a bit of a departure stylistically from Bigfoot and the Baby, but the subject, as Led Zeppelin sort of said, remains the same: mystery and how we deal with it. It's just that this time, the theme and the plot are both mystery. We'll be looking for a home for the newbie later this year.

Monday, January 05, 2015

On taking risks

I have always been a relatively timid soul. I am conflict-averse, skeptical, and even rather lazy. But as I get older, I'm taking more and more risks--not free-climbing El Capitan, mind you, but undertaking tasks that expose me to criticism, sometimes of the very harsh and/or completely baffling variety. I would like to say that it gets a little easier to deal with this feeling of vulnerability over time, but I don't think I can say that. More like: I realize it's coming and that I will have to deal with it and go on. And: there's no reason to think the negative reactions are more correct than the positive ones--although I do tend to think that.

I say all this on the brink of a new year that brings with it a milestone birthday--because at a certain point (perhaps around the time when the years ahead of you are likely fewer than those behind), *not* taking risks becomes the real risk. I think Dolly Parton said something like this once. And I've started to feel that way myself. I'm not really any braver than I used to be, just more afraid of having regrets than of making mistakes.

Have a happy (and sensibly risky) new year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Castlewood" in Mill Valley Literary Review

My story, "Castlewood," a corporate fairy tale, is up at the Mill Valley Literary Review.
Note: pancakes are involved.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Feeling ideas

In their salute to Russian literature yesterday, the NYT Book Review asked their Bookends writers the fascinating but awkwardly worded question, "What Makes the Russian Literature of the 19th Century So Distinctive?" About Dostoevsky, my personal fave, Francine Prose writes, "Dostoyevsky’s people seem real to us, vivid and fully present, even as we suspect that no one ever really behaved as they do, flinging themselves at each other’s feet, telling their life stories at extraordinary length and in excruciating detail to a stranger in a bar."

I still like the explanation that apparently comes from one of Dostoevsky's own characters in A Raw Youth, a book I have never read. This character says that he "feels ideas," a condition that applies to many of Dostoevsky's people--at least to the men (the women seem to just plain feel). It's true that in real life, we rarely see people driving themselves to actual madness over what God really wants from us, or why there is evil, or how we can contribute the most to humanity during our short time on earth. But maybe they should.

Such characters also inhabit Iris Murdoch's novels, which is probably why I've gone a bit nuts for her, too. What I love about these characters is that they deeply care about ideas, about morality, about thinking and meaning. Ideas and morality aren't abstract concepts that one contemplates instead of living. For these people, thinking is living. That probably seems rather foreign, in an American context particularly; but in these novels, ideas are life blood. Thinking makes us more human, and more alive--not less so.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pints & Prose in Fairfax tonight!

Join Lindsey Crittenden, the Tuesday Night Writers, and me for Pints & Prose at Peri's Bar in lovely Fairfax, CA! Festivities start at 6 p.m.

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.