Reporting from the Road: 28 Events in 35 Days, The Blur, and Tio's Tacos
(Pardon my DIY phone photos, but here's me and Tom Nissley at Amazon HQ, and a sample of the wonders that await you at Tio's Tacos.)
What day is it? That's one question that keeps popping into my head as I make my way through this massive book tour in support of my novel Finch and writing strategy guide Booklife. Other questions range from the mundane, like "When will I ever get to do laundry again?", to the slightly more esoteric, including "Should I get that tattoo today or just lie here and catch up on sleep?" (I decided on the latter as the more sensible answer.)
I'm now about six or seven events into the tour, and it's already been a rather wonderful, frenetic, at times odd experience. Starting out in Seattle after being a guest of honor at the World Fantasy con in San Jose, the first event at University Bookstore co-featured Cherie Priest and Cat Rambo. A boisterous crowd of about seventy got the tour off to a great start, after which my intrepid editor Victoria Blake hijacked me to go down to Salem for a gig talking to students at Willamette University, followed by a well-attended reading. Then it was off to the Press Club in Portland and Powell's. Meeting Jeff Johnson, author of Tattoo Machine was a definite highlight, as was hanging out with novelist Jay Lake at the Japanese Garden. Finally, it was back to Seattle for a Hugo House workshop and lecture, as well as a nice lunch with Omnivoracious' own Tom Nissley and Alex Carr. (If you're wondering, there's no dirt to dish--both are genuine, fun, laid-back people who care about books. Perhaps they spend their off-hours using bunnies as target practice and planning world domination, but I rather doubt it.) A lot to absorb, a bit of a blur.
The Blur is definitely something I'm experiencing now. Not remember who I've told what stories to, and in the middle of that trying to find time to just sit and not do anything. In the midst of The Blur, small details stand out: losing my voice and asking the pharmacist for a remedy, and being told "saliva replacement gum." Um, yeah. Can you give me a brand that doesn't sound so disgusting. Or moments where time slows down, like sitting in Tio's Tacos and talking with my friend Dave Wesley, Cal State San Bernardino professor Glen Hirshberg (an amazing writer), and some of his students after doing a Finch reading (one of whom expounded in rather convincing fashion on the myriad uses for dryer sheets). Tio's Tacos has an amazing "outsider art" garden of figures and animals and weird structures.
The other thing I'm experiencing that may sound weird is: "Oh, there actually are readers out there." As a writer, you always get that paranoid feeling in the pit of your stomach about events. What if nobody shows up? So far, though, so good, with an average crowd of about 50. Hey, I'm not a NYT bestseller. I'm one of them critically acclaimed midlisters. I'll take it, and frankly it's been great to meet such a mix of people so far. There are readers who'd never heard of me before Booklife or Finch, and readers who came up to have me sign every book I've ever written.
Anyway, I expect it to get weirder and for The Blur to become Godzilla-like in proportions, but it's okay. I'm finding myself oddly invigorated and stimulated by changes of scenery, by good and fun conversation, and reaffirming that people in this country still care about books, and still care about readings.
Check in next week when I report back with further adventures. Yes, you too can chart Jeff's ongoing disintegration and failing sense of time.
What Jeff's Reading on the Road: On the plane to Seattle I cranked through Will Self's Liver: A Fictional Organ with a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes, composed of several long stories with connections that range from marginal to essential. The first one, set in a degenerate drinking club with a number of sleezy people of bad moral fiber, has a great baroque and tactile feel to it. Then you get to the end and, pardon the expression, have a genuine "WTF" moment when he adds a twist that had me torn between admiring his insane bravado and wanting to throw the book across the room. Are you having us on, Will Self? Are you having a larf? Regardless of how that story strikes you, though, I recommend Liver for its daring.