Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chapter 54: In Which I Scramble to Get Things Done

I saw Catherynne Valente read at Dark Carnival a few nights ago. Dark Carnival is pretty much the best-kept secret in the Bay. It's a fantasy bookstore in Berkeley that's been there forever and has tons of space. I first visited a month or so ago to pick up a Robert E. Howard book that Other Change of Hobbit didn't have. The few times I've been at this amazing store, I keep finding new twists and corners among the labyrinthine bookshelves. Not only do they have tons of space, but they have the inventory to fill it. There's very little they don't have, in the way of fantasy books. Perfect place for Catherynne to read during her sojourn to the Bay.

Last time I saw her was on the Palimpsest tour, when she and SJ Tucker did it up rock star style at Borderlands, with Catherynne reading and SJ performing her songs based on the book. It was pretty cool, and got me thinking a lot about how I present my own work. This reading was a lot more intimate. There were no chairs, or even room for chairs, so the people who came for the reading sat down like they were at a folk-punk basement show while Catherynne read from Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. Very cozy. Afterwards some questions. This being the Bay, there were some witches there who let her know that her books were assigned reading at their coven. The print version of Fairyland has come out pretty much simultaneously with her Koschei the Deathless book, which is crazy, because I thought her new book was Prester John. Literally give the woman six months and she'll give you a new novel. And they're all good.

According to Catherynne, SJ Tucker has finished a Fairyland album that they're going to perform at WisCon. Out of all she's accomplished, including a Hugo nomination or two, the thing I truly envy is the way she melds her words with song. Maybe somebody will do an album based on my work someday. Anyways, I didn't get a book signed, because I didn't have a book to sign, and autographs aren't really my thing. They were when I was younger. I own an autographed sketch page I bought from Scott McDaniel at the 1993 Pittsburgh Comic-Con, back when he was an independent artist working his artist alley table and I was a 9-year-old boy. The idea that we crossed paths randomly, and so early in our lives, and that something about his work popped out and grabbed me the same way it would later in life, is something I genuinely cherish. That's never going up on EBay. Nowadays, the autograph thing seems a weird, demeaning way to show respect to someone. Ever since I drove four hours to FairyCon just to tell Charles de Lint I appreciated his work, I've found it a great relief to remove the celebrity/god aspect from my interaction with other artists.

Oh, right. Catherynne Valente. I think she's a writing genius and have found her work inspiring, both in the content and her ability to market it. I told her I wrote a term paper on Palimpsest. I think she was flattered. Then, since I was just standing there shooting the breeze, I capped off our writer/fan interaction by having her sign my Jack Daniels Sessions Summer Book Tour flier. I thought that was cool. Then I went home. The great thing about San Francisco is that everybody who's anybody eventually stops through here. Unless you're George W. Bush, who never came here. If there's an author I like, they will do a reading here sooner or later. It's that kind of town.

Speaking of fantasy, I just finished Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia. There were freebie copies at FogCon and I grabbed one. Worth the hype. Her writing is so evocative, her concept of history so vast, and she's now another author who has my loyalty. I've said it before, I'll say it again: now is the most exciting time for fantasy. There are people out there making work that is not only creative but honest, dealing head-on with this world that's collapsing around us. Sometimes I wonder if i'm up to the challenge of being a 21st century fantasy author.

*cue 80s movie montage music*

Tour is in less than two weeks. I have a pile of fliers (way more than I need, really) for my Oakland show that I'm posting around the East Bay, but only a few places. The promo stuff is exhausting, and ultimately doesn't guarantee anyone will come. The most effective way to get people to come to an event is leafletting at similar events, which doesn't work with my social anxiety. So I'm not going to wear myself out posting fliers, but rely on good ol' word of mouth. I'll definitely bring handbills to a few Bay area readings.

Just got a package of 10 books in the mail. I'm waiting on an extra 40, which should last me through tour, and probably some readings besides. I'm also ordering a few copies of the Cyberpunk Apocalypse zine #3, for people who like zines. "Graveyard Shift" is a story I find myself liking more and more every time I look at it.

I will be reading at Baycon and the SubRosa infoshop on the same day, May 28th. This is actually three readings in one day, since I'll be doing the poetry and urban fantasy readings at the convention. I feel like fucking Elvis. He used to do three shows a day. I'm not scheduled to do any panels, at least not yet. I don't own a car, so I had to rent one just for that Saturday. I'm picking it up early from SFO, since all I've read online are horror stories about Budget Rent-a-Car's wait times and shitty service. If I'm going to have to wait an hour to get the car, I should factor that time in. Unfortunately, these traits seem to be across the board for all rental car companies in the Bay. There are bad ones, like Budget, then there are the worse ones who hit you with the hidden fees. I hate doing this, and don't trust these companies to act honorably, and when I have the money I'm buying a used car because this stress is unnecessary. Budget: please prove me wrong. Show quality service when I get this car.

All angsting aside, I am very excited to see Santa Cruz again. The last time I went there was for an anarchist conference at SubRosa inoshop. I went to three workshops, most of them related to childcare, an odd choice on my part, then said "fuck it" and spend the rest of the day exploring the Lost Boys beach with some Iraq Veterans Against the War. It's a magical piece of land, way more inspiring than the SF beach, and the boardwalk is so fun. I remember drinking 40s around the fire, while in the distance a huge cloud of black smoke emanated from the scene of a 4-alarm blaze. We had nowhere to sleep, so we crashed in the redwoods outside UC Santa Cruz, wrapped in our thrift store blankets. The veterans were some of the loveliest, most hopelessly macho men I have ever met. So I am excited to return, for the beach alone.

I still need to mail fliers to the Redding date. I also need food for the trip. Luckily, I live by a food bank. My hippie housemates make regular trips there to pick up free food for the house. Pita bread, cereal, that kettle corn they pass out a million bags of. We eat so much kettle corn at my house.

I couldn't finish the audiobook in time for tour, because of my end-of-semester work at school. This is not really a disappointment for me. Even if I finished recording the tracks, I would have had to edit them together in a hurry. I don't like hurrying, it doesn't yield good results. The audiobook will be finished, ready for sale and absolutely the best piece of art it can be before the end of the year, so I'm fine with this. While I had little time to work on creative stuff during school, now I'm hard at work on a few different projects. I'm writing a new piece for the 1000 Words reading in Portland, and polishing off an old one for the Interdisciplinary Writers Lab. Both of these have to be done by May 31st. The day I leave for Redding. The day I must be completely prepped for tour. Ah, multitasking.

Speaking of multitasking, one thing I learned from writing term papers: you always should start earlier. I sat in that library for 8 hours a day, doing nothing but typing and looking up passages, but the time kept flying by, and I still ended up handing in my Victorian lit paper a half hour before the deadline. If I even gave myself one extra day, it would have saved a lot of stress.

Speaking of Portland: it's the city where Kim and I will be spending the most time, and it's the city where we have nowhere to stay. Finding crash space in Portland = high on agenda. There's got to be some crusty hippies willing to lend a couch.

Speaking of the Interdisciplinary Writers Lab: I'm in it. It's a series of writing workshops put on by Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco. Different artists come in and lead workshops. The best part has been interacting with the other students, who are amazing artists, passionate and kind-hearted and intriguing people. Last week we did a performance workshop with Brenda Wong Aoki, whose a theatre person from Utah. I wouldn't have minded if Brenda did the whole 8-week workshop, but, alas, she is the last of four IWL instructors. And I'll blog all about my study under her after Saturday's workshop, in which we will perform pieces. I feel that I've fallen off on the performance aspect of my work, so these last few workshops are a benefit.

Very soon I'm going to do another "Music of the Elvenslaughter" post, because my mind is all on tour. Keeping busy until then.

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