Archive for the ‘Million Mile Road Trip’ Category


Mashup of “Million Mile Road Trip” Interviews

I recently did three interviews in connection with Million Mile Road Trip. One was with the writer Jeff Somers from B&N SciFi & Fantasy Blog. One was a fixed list of questions (so call my interviewer “Bot”), from Shelf Awareness webzine. And the third was a single-question interview by Chris Richards a pop music writer at the Washington Post, who publishes a rather amazing little zine called Debussy Ringtone — in print only. As usual I’m putting in a surreal mix of recent photos, and I’ve included two recent paintings (with notes) as well.

Jeff. Night Shade Books calls this the “Year of Rudy Rucker,” which feels way overdue. You’ve published 23 novels—where would you recommend a Rucker newbie get started

A. Yep, Night Shade is issuing ten books by me this year—nine reprints along with Million Mile Road Trip. A matching set of print books with great covers. I’m not sure I’d say this is way overdue, but I’m really glad it’s happening. If you’re an author, having your books in print is the blood of life. Which of my books to start with? Whichever one you get your hands on. I do like Mathematicians in Love a lot..And Saucer Wisdom is a hoot. But this week I’m gonna say that Million Mile Road Trip is a good place to start! Could be the best book I ever wrote.

[This is the same pink IBM Selectric model that I wrote my first few novels of.  Seen in the Milwaukee Art Museum Design section.]

Jeff. Your companion book, Notes for Million Mile Road Trip, is actually longer than the novel! The idea of following up reading a novel with that kind of metadata is fascinating; can you tell us more about it?

A. It’s hard to write a novel. It takes a year or maybe two years of tickling the keyboard at your desk, or using a laptop in a cafe, doing that pretty much every day, even on the days when you don’t know what comes next. This is where writing a volume of notes comes in. When I don’t have anything to put into the novel, I write something in the notes. I might analyze the possibilities for the next few scenes. Or craft journal entries about things I saw. Or describe some the people sitting around me, being careful not to stare at them too hard. Or wheenk about how hopeless it is to try to write another novel, and how I’ve been faking it all along anyhow. The more I complain in my notes, the better I feel. I publish the finished Notes in parallel with with the novel, not that I sell many copies of the notes. Longterm, the notes will be fodder for the locust swarm of devoted Rucker scholars who are due to emerge any time now from their curiously long gestation in the soil.


[Fresnel Lens for the lighthouse at Point Arena, CA.]

Jeff. What’s amazing about a book like MMRT is how you take some pretty high-level math and science and turn it into a rollicking sci-fi adventure. How do you manage that balance?

A. I studied math in college and grad school. Math always appealed to me. So clear and so intricate—the hidden machinery of the world. It is, as you say, a delicate balance to have a book be lively, with romance and fun characters—and also to have it be based on logical science ideas. In studying math, I learned about starting out with some set of assumptions like, say, Euclid’s postulates or the axioms of transfinite set theory, starting out with a set of rules and then deducing what follows from them. In my SF novels, I’ll make some wild, far-out initial assumptions. But from then it’s logical, and I get to see what ends up happening. I don’t really know in advance, not before I write the novel. That way its surprising and fun. I’m not trying to teach things to my readers. I want them to be amazed and to laugh and to be carried away.


“Cute Meet” Acrylic, pair of 24″ x 30″ canvases, May, 2019. Click for a larger version of the painting.

[I saw a diagram of a so-called Hele ‐Shaw ferrohydrodynamics pattern formed by, I don’t know, something like a rotating magnetic field under a fluid with metal dust in it. I don’t remember the details. But I liked the cool pattern. I love when nature makes these chaotic, odd things that look like paleolithic cave-wall drawings. So I picked one pattern, and painted two versions of it, copying the pattern by hand each time. I liked doing it so much that I did it twice, so we have a diptych here. And the colors are kind of the opposites of each other. And if you rotate either of these patterns by 180 degrees, it’s approximately the same as the other one. So they’re the same species. But the butterfly one on the left is girl, and the yearning one on the right is a boy. And they’re having a cute meet.]

Debussy. Most of your novels and stories are optimistic. Why?

A. The media are awash with bad news. But this is a custom, and not a reflection of reality. My theory is that bad news (a) makes people more fearful and more likely to accept repressive rulers, and (b) makes them more likely to buy distracting expensive things. Media, the Man, and Mammon work in concert. It’s not really true that the world is worse off than it’s ever been. Flip back through history, and things are always a mess. We’re all going to die. That never changes. Why obsess on it? I prefer to have some fun in the time that I have. And to hell with the daily news.

When I’m writing an SF story, I’m describing an alternate world that I’m inventing on the spot. I want to see interesting characters, good dialog, rad mind warps, surprising plot twists, rich vocabulary, eyeball kicks, and unheard-of science. I’m like a painter who prefers bright colors to blacks and grays. There’s good as well as bad. Unknown natural laws await. Aliens might be friendly. A novel can have a happy ending.

This said, I’m not above killing off a main character in any given book. You need chiaroscuro, that is, some dark against the like. It’s nice to pump up a big operatic scene where a good person dies. But, do note that I do like someone’s death to be a big deal—and not just have a stranger shoot a person in the back of the head and have everyone be, like, “Oh, sigh, that’s the way it is in this boring vale of tears, and now let’s parrot some media headlines.”

I think you said you only wanted three hundred words for my answer? Wow, that’s not many! I’d hoped I’d be able to go on and write about—erk

Bot. Your favorite books when you were a child?

A. I loved the world of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books. And Beverly Cleary books like Ribsy, Henry Huggins, and Ramona the Pest. And a picture book by Robert Lawson, McWhinney’s Jaunt—about a professor who rides across the country on a flying bicycle, held aloft by “Z gas” in is tires. I read all the Robert Heinlein novels, and especially liked Revolt in 2100 and Tunnel in the Sky. I was a huge fan of the SF master Robert Sheckley’s Untouched by Human Hands. And when I was fourteen, I got hold of the Beat author William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, which I found on my big brother’s bookshelf. Burroughs showed me that you can write about anything at all.

Jeff. You’ve been called a groundbreaker in genre—from your foundational writing in cyberpunk and transrealism, to being the winner of the first Philip K. Dick Award ever. What’s your take on the modern state of sci-fi, and what do you see for the future of the genre?

A. I’m not much involved with factions and fashions in the SF community—although I do have my old cabal of cyberpunks, transrealists, and the writers I published when I was running my webzine Flurb. An odd recent phenomenon is that lots of mainstream authors are writing SF. But they won’t admit it’s SF. Lifelong literary-SF writers like me find this … irritating. It’s like the upper crust authors can dip down into our world—but they don’t want to let us out. Even if we’re writing high lit. I always think of Kurt Vonnegut’s line, “I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled ‘science fiction’ … and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”

[Above: Model of my character Groon from Million Mile Road Trip. Model by Chuck Shotton, painstakingly 3D-printed, and with a sound chip inside. My painting of Groon in the background. Below: With artist Paul Mavrides at the Andy Warhol show in San Francisco. That’s Mrs. Warhola in the background.]

Bot. What book do you most want to read again for the first time?

A. A volume of stories by Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths, say, or Collected Fictions. When I first read Borges, I was stunned at the richness of the trove. “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” might have been the very first of his stories I found. It’s a crazy-sounding title, but that’s as it should be. The tale is about the discovery of an encyclopedia about an unkown planet with “its emperors and seas, its minerals and birds and fish, its algebra and fire, its theological and metaphysical controversies.” All this in a single short story! And “Funes the Memorious,” where Borges describes a youth with a perfect memory. “He knew the forms of the clouds in the southern sky on the morning of April 30, 1882, and he could compare them in his memories with the veins in the marbled binding of a book he had seen only once, or with the feathers of spray lifted by an oar on the Rio Negro on the eve of the Battle of Quebracho.” Borges stories are my notion of what fantasy and science fiction ought to be. Truly other, and utterly wondrous.

Jeff. It’s been thirty-six years since you published A Transrealist Manifesto, and some argue that with the mainstreaming of sci-fi into popular-culture transrealism, we’ve reached a turning point where transrealism will soon be the baseline for sci-fi stories. Do you agree, or is it more complicated than that?

A. The idea behind transrealism it that you write in a fairly realistic way about your life and your feelings and about the lives of those around you—but then you bring in SF elements that can stand for subtextual aspects of your mental life. Like time travel stands for nostalgia and hope. And uploading your mind to a computer stands for going to heaven. And telepathy stands for someone actually understanding what the eff you’re talking about. And alien stands for people from different backgrounds. When you come down to it, everyone’s background is different, and everyone you ever meet is an alien. Or maybe a zombie or a robot. The SF tropes are objective correlatives for things we have trouble writing about. And, yes, this transreal approach can be a baseline for present-day lit.

Bot. Books you’d still like to write?

A. I want to write about a heretofore unnoticed force of nature. It’s at the subquantum level. It relates to dark energy, and to consciousness. And once we get it tune with it, we’ll have all the free energy we need, and we’ll be able to live inside electrons, like in my novel Jim and the Flims, and to predict the future from soap films, like in Mathematicians in Love, and to levitate, like in Million Mile Road Trip, and to talk to rocks, like in Hylozoic. But I know there’s something more than even that, something wilder and deeper, something super new that will, in retrospect, seem obvious and natural. We’ll be, like, “Why didn’t we think of that before!” I hope the muse shows it to me.


[Detail from Peter Bruegel’s Het Luilekkerland, also known as Schlaraffenland  or The Land of Cockaigne.]

Bot. A book you hid from your parents?

A. I grew up in Kentucky, and in the University of Louisville bookstore I found a text on types of mental illness. As a budding young author, I had to consider the option of going mad as an early career move. I got the book, and I’d look through it to find symptoms that I might be having, or that I might be able to convince myself that I had. It drove my parents nuts to see me do that. As if I weren’t already enough trouble!

“The Two Lovers Walk Their Dog” acrylic on canvas, June, 2019, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

[They had an En Plein Air painting festival in my town, and I was thinking I should do a quick painting of something I saw outside. So I went in my backyard and started painting the ivy leaves on the wall. And that got a little boring. So I started putting in critters. I made a spiraling black line, and then I put an eye in the middle, and that’s how I got started on the figure on the right. I gave her pink flesh, and put in some 3D shading to round her out. the real stroke of inspiration was just filling in a crescent of orange-red for her mouth. And then I drew her lover on the left. His smile is even bigger. And the dog? Well, he was just a lucky hit. I made that red glob and put two things like ears on it, and then added another—voila! And I made the background an insanely bright and saturated shade of yellow-orange. I love how cheerful the lovers look. And the ivy leaves turned out to be hearts. And, all in all, there’s seventeen eyes bobbling around! This one is a gift from the Muse, an unexpected masterpiece. Not that it would ever be accepted by the En Plein Air festival. But who cares.]

Jeff. You also paint, and have received notice for your artwork, which favors surreal sci-fi themes. Are there connections between your painting and your writing?

A. I started painting in 1999 because I was writing a historical novel, As Above, So Below, about the life of the artist Peter Bruegel. I wanted to get a sense of what it’s like to paint. Over time I got to enjoying it more and more. I’ve done almost a hundred and seventy paintings by now. I’m not a great draftsman. But with paint, you can push it around and layer it until it looks like what you want. And then of course you ruin it, and fix it, and ruin it again, and fix it, and eventually you stop.

I like how painting is completely analog. No keyboard and screen. Smearing paint on a canvas. I love it. When I’m unsure about an upcoming scene in a novel, I do a painting that relates to it. Not an exact representation, more like an evocation. Like dreaming while I’m awake. Writing is like dreaming, too. You get out of your way and type.

Bot. What are five books you’ll never part with?

A. Oh, let’s just do one. A fat one. Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. I reread it ever five or ten years, reveling once again in the man’s wit, and the richness of his prose. I’ve persistently been trying to write like Pynchon over the course of my twenty-three novels, and in Million Mile Road Trip, I think I finally got close. Some Pynchonian elements: Write in the present tense, like a person describing a movie. Use close-in third person viewpoint where thoughts of the focus characters spill onto the page. Use some very long sentences, with phrase after phrase being added on, like you’re a carpenter working your way out on an increasingly rickety scaffolding that you’re assembling as you go along. And allow yourself an occasional fourth-wall-breaking exclamation, like, “Maybe this is going a little too far.”


[Work by the artist Rina Banarjee.]

Jeff. You’ve been a professional writer and a publisher for decades; how has the business of getting your words out there changed in that time?

A. The biggest new thing is the ebook. Ebooks are literary immortality; they don’t ever go out of print. And writers can publish ebooks themselves for free. Not only that, writers can publish print books for free, too. And you can sell your self-published ebooks and paperbacks on big online sites such as Barnes & Noble. Personal freedom to publish to the world audience is a huge deal. No gatekeepers.

The catch, however, is that if you self-pub, it’s hard getting people to notice you. Including my nonfiction, I’ve published about forty books. And the first thirty or so were from commercial publishers. But in 2012, the publishers temporarily turned their backs on me. Like, “We’ve heard enough out of you!.” But I wasn’t ready to quit. And thanks to the new channels, I didn’t have to. I learned how to self-pub my own ebooks and paperbacks—I did my Collected Stories, my Journals, three novels, and an art book. I call my imprint Transreal Books. I ran Kickstarters for the self-pub books, which took the place of getting publishers’ advances. It was a lot of work.

And now, hallelujah, Night Shade Books has taken me into their fold. I’m back in the tribe and off the ice floe. I’m glad.

Exploding Head

I’ve been in high gear this month. Here’s a picture of me with my head exploding. Or the man standing next to me, as in Dylan’s “Day of the Locusts.” Or something. More details toward the end of this post.

Let’s start with my latest painting.

“MonkeyBrains ISP” acrylic, July, 2017, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

These days I often start a painting by making spontaneous squiggles, using the paint left over from the previous painting. My initial goals are (a) to cover every bit of the canvas with paint, including the edges of the canvas, (b) to craft an engaging dance of stroke and hue, and (c) stop daubing before the patterns get overly smooth—it takes some restraint to quit in time.

And then I paint something on top of the background. And then it reminds me of something, and I tweak the painting to make it look like whatever I have in mind. For “MonkeyBrains ISP” I was thinking of my son Rudy Jr. and his Internet Service Provider company, Monkeybrains.net, run by Rudy and his business partner Alex. They have a logo that looks like a monkey. And they have about 5,000 wireless dish antennas scattered around multi-culti San Francisco. And from the window of my son’s house, I can see some Wayne-Thiebaud-style loops and ramps of the freeways 280 and 101.

So I made a big, reddish, living, walking building like a giant King Kong ape—with dish antennas, and with the two boss monkeys inside it, and with the diverse heads of their customers outside, and a freeway arcing upwards in back.

What else have I been doing?

Well, I’m all signed on with Skyhorse Publications / Night Shade Books. I sold them nine of my backlist novels plus the legendary and fabled Million Mile Road Trip . Their plan is to release a backlist title in fall 2018, then do one every two to four months and to publish Million Mile Road Trip after about three of the backlist titles, hopefully having stirred up a some interest on the part of new readers with the initial backlist publications.

So we’re looking at my novel coming out in summer or fall of 2019, that is, two years from now. Long wait. But, what the hey, it’s been two and a half years since I started work on MMRT in January, 2015, and now it’s done and it’ll be another two years till it comes out. At least Night Shade has a master plan! And my novel will quietly age for two more years. A fragrant cask of Amontillado.

I spent the whole of June, 2017, and the first part of July, doing final revisions on Million Mile Road Trip before sending it to Cory Allyn and Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade. To start with, I read it, and marked it up, and typed in the changes—to the tune of about fifteen changes per page. And then I worked my way through my accumulated To Do list for the novel, doing global fixes on various plot points. I was working very intensely, like ten hours a day for thirty days in a row.

It always surprises me how few actual deletions and new sentences or phrases it can take to finish off a To Do. It’s like finding pressure points. You find them and do few a light touches, and the problem is healed. Like acupressure. Acuedits. But it takes a while to figure them out. Takes more time than the actual typing involved.

During the week or two while I was doing my acuedit fixes of the To Dos, I felt more intelligent than usual. For that period of time, I had the whole entire 117,000 word novel simultaneously imaged in my brain—and that’s a much larger mental pattern than I can normally keep active at once. Like balancing a tower of plates on sticks on plates, or juggling a whole lot of things at once. Mental exercise at a very high level.

That’s the novel on the left, and me on the high balcony on the right. And I’m the only one who sees that the finished temple is there.

At one point during this process, Sylvia and I were bumming around San Francisco, spending the nights in Rudy Jr.’s temporarily unoccupied house. And we took two free San Francisco City Guides tours, one of Chinatown and one of lower Market Street.

Our guide was a nice woman with a slight New York accent, very hip, but I forget her name, maybe it started with an E. Here she’s showing us a Chinatown alley where the tongs had a brothel and an early 1900s lady called Donaldina Cameron helped the indentured women escape down the fire escape.

At a cafe or on a bench, if there was a lull, I’d get out my traditional pocket-folded scrap of paper and be marking down some ideas about the To Dos and the fixes. At one point Sylvia looks over at me at says, “I can never believe how you can instantly start working at any time.” And it’s because that stuff is flowing along like an underground river in my head the whole time.

I sort of worry about something that can happen with older writers is that, in their later works, they get into what you might perhaps call a Mannerist phase where they are aping and replaying their best bits, riffs they love to do, themes they can’t let go of, reworking them into scenes of unnatural elegance and intellectual sophistication. And wonder if I’m in that mode in my recent books like The Big Aha and now Million Mile Road Trip. I’m working with a high-craft Salvador Dali type polish. Although perhaps Mannerist and even decadent—in the literal sense of being the products of a dying or decaying organism (me)—my current novels seem to me to be of value. Like the fragrant ambergris drawn from a diseased whale.

Well, going a little overboard there. I’m still making great efforts to have my characters be rounded, human, quirky, and empathetic. So maybe I’m beyond Mannerist. I’m Baroque. A.k.a. gnarly.

In the full Salvador Dali Mannerist-Baroque-gnarly mode, I kicked in some new four-dimensional twists for Million Mile Road Trip, and spent a couple of days drawing intricate illos. Like there’s a wormhole or so-called Einstein-Rosen bridge, or “unny tunnel” that connects our normal universe to the alternate universe where most of the book is set. And in this illo shown above you can see heroine Zoe with her trumpet, sliding up from our world to the other one, and a possibly evil saucer and a friendly alien named Yampa sliding down.

Eventually an evil alien bagpipe named Groon wants to slide through the wormhole between worlds. Groon, by the way, is the creature shown further up this page, he’s a giant bagpipe who blats flying saucers from his horn. What, I ask you, can be more evil than a bagpipe?

And this illo shows geeky Scud’s plan for his brother Villy to trap and kill Groon while he’s midway in that tunnel. Villy will be in 4D space with something like a pair of lassos. Zoe will, unfortunately, be trapped in Groon’s stomach at this time.

Explanation by Scud:
“We’ve got Groon embedded in the surface of the tunnel. So the first step is when Groon slides in there and Villy lassoes the two ends. Second step is when Villy tightens up the two ends of the tunnel. And then Groon is—trapped on the hypersurface of a pocket universe. And, ta da, for step three, the pocket universe shrinks on its own. No more Groon!”

My character Zoe is worried about the pictures:
“What’s that woman doing in there?” asks Zoe, an edge in her voice. “Trapped inside Groon’s stomach. Is that supposed to be me? Do you think that’s funny?”

“Well, I mean, these pictures are hypothetical,” says Scud. “The sequence I drew is strictly a worst-case analysis. Consider the pictures a cautionary warning.”


Very meta: A plastic model of a taxidermist in the Qunicy Museum. Taxidermist taxidermy.

Sylvia and I were up Quincy, CA, near the Feather River canyon last weekend for a wedding, a big event, lots of fun, Our humble $90-a-night motel literally had a babbling brook outside the window, We went swimming at a deserted swimming hole under a country bridge, along with our friend Jon Pearce and his wife Debra, it was quite awesome, Birds flying, ripples, marshy plant stalks, lion scat, currents. This is how things should be, is what I think at my rare moments fully in nature like this.

It reminded me an experience I had standing chest deep in the Big Sur river a few years ago, when I was working on my tome, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul and writing the final ““The Answers” section, which you can click here to read online.

I’d been arguing that “everything is a computation.” And, standing in the river, I realized I was wrong. This voice in my head was saying: “This is WATER, Rudy. WATER.” Which is what the blind and deaf Helen Keller’s teacher signed onto her palm while holding Helen’s arm in the rushing gush from a pump. Not a computation. WATER.

Speaking of water, on the last day in Quincy, after the wedding, Sylvia and I stayed on for an empty day, and ended up driving to the nearby Bucks Lake—we were searching for cool weather there at 5,000 feet, but even so it was 90 degrees. Anyway, we rented a little motorboat and putted over to some empty shore and went swimming, which was great.

And then we drove around the lake and, at the base of the Bucks Lake dam, I came across a drain at the base of the dam, with water shooting out in a staggeringly intense jet. I love it when I see such incredibly rich and gnarly examples of physical computation. Note that I’m not saying the water is, in its deepest essence, a computation. I’m saying it can be viewed as encoding or carrying out a computation–it it stimulates you to look at the world that way. But, again, mainly it’s being water. Presented by the mysterious Lady S.

With the sweetest little pool of mountain irises next to the jet, such clear water, such green leaves. Life is beautiful.

Last Chance for Nine of Rudy’s Transreal Books

[Updated June 25, 2017: The new publisher for the nine backlist novels mentioned in this post will be the Night Shade imprint of Skyhorse Books. Starting this week, print copies of these titles will no longer be produced or sold by Transreal Books. Transreal Books will continue to sell the ebook editions. The new Night Shade print editions will be appearing during the time frame 2018-2019.]

I found a publisher (name soon to be announced) for my latest novel, Million Mile Road Trip. The new publisher is acquiring the print rights for ten of my books in all, that is, rights for Million Mile Road Trip plus rights for nine of my backlist novels, all of which are presently in print via my Transreal Books imprint.

Transreal Books will still be handling the ebook editions for these books, by the way, but my print editions will be redesigned with new covers by the new publisher. And the print Transreal Books editions will no longer be produced.

Sooo, for a short time, that is, about a week, you can still buy the Transreal Books print editions of those nine backlist paperbacks, with designs and covers by Rudy Rucker. And then begins a differently awesome era—with new designs, larger production runs, and more visibility. An exciting change.

But the uniquely styled old Transreal Books print editions of those nine books will be out-of-print collectibles. Get ’em while you can. The clock is running out.

*White Light
*Spacetime Donuts
*The Sex Sphere
*The Secret of Life
*Saucer Wisdom
*Mathematicians in Love
*Jim and the Flims
*Turing & Burroughs
*The Big Aha

Kauai. Finished 2nd Draft of MILLION MILE ROAD TRIP.

So yesterday I finished the second draft of Million Mile Road Trip, an SF novel I’ve been working on since April, 2014. Nearly two and a half years. It’s been a long haul. And this year was hard one for me in other ways.

I finished the first draft in June, and at that time I put up a long post with a number of illos relating to the novel, so I won’t repeat all that info. And if you want to see more on the backstory of the novel you can also look at the cumulative “Million Mile Road Trip” category of posts on my blog.

In short, the novel features three teens on a million mile road trip across a landscape of alien civilizations. Goal? Stop the flying saucers from invading Earth. And learn about life and love.

The master of the flying saucers is an evil alien bagpipe—are there any other kinds of bagpipes? His name is Groon, and I did a painting of him a few months back that I really like.

“Saucer Bagpipe” acrylic on canvas, June, 2016, 24” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The teens are Zoe and Villy, aged 18, plus Villy’s irritating 16-year-old brother Scud. Flying saucers and colorful aliens enter the tale. And, yes, it’s literally about a car trip that’s a million miles long—the trip is set in a parallel universe, which contains a single, endless plain divided by ridges into basin-like worlds.

For years I’d wanted to kick up the Kerouac On the Road thing into an book of intergalactic kicks with a seriously long drive. And I was happy to get it to work. Not that my novel is much like a beat novel. I was, at least initially, thinking in terms of a YA novel for teens—although who knows if that’s the market I’ll find.


[Many of today’s photos are from a trip to Kauai I did with Sylvia at the end of July, 2016.]

In the spirit of Kerouac/YA I wrote the book in the present tense, alternating among the points of view of the kids, with the prose style fairly colloquial and intimate. I think Zoe’s voice is especially funny. I posted a sample passage of her in April, 2016. a passage from the “Lady Filippa” chapter about 2/3 of the way through the book.

As I’ve said before, writing a novel is like rowing a boat across the Atlantic. You just cannot believe how long it takes, and how much work it is, and how much doubt you have to fight through along the way. Sometimes writers talk about the “black point,” when you’re so far into the journey that you can’t see where you started from, and you can’t see where you’re going.

You have to count on the muse for help, and I don’t mean that as a metaphor or a joke or mere lip-service to some notion of the writer’s craft. There is some kind of force—maybe it’s just my subconscious, or my trickle from the hive mind, or my archetypal engrams, or racial memory, or the synchronistic elegance of our divine natural world, or the quantum computing metamind of the Great Novelist—but it’s something that kicks in and helps me. Those flashes of inspiration. When the world starts dancing with you, everything fitting, overheard scraps of conversation, dreams, articles in the paper, things people say, here it is.


[A thermostat in an art gallery, plastic-encased, casting an odd shadow. “Vhat is?”]

It was fun being in Kauai, a nice break, we went there right after I finished the first draft, and I didn’t bring the draft along for correcting, so Sylvia and I were just kickin’ it. As a bonus our old friends Marc Laidlaw and wife Geraldine have a house there now, up on the funky jungly northwest end of Kauai, almost at the Na Pali cliffs.

Naturally Marc and I started talking about story ideas. Somehow I want to have a character who is, in some sense, a humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish. I even did a watercolor of him and his friends. He’s kind of a hoodlum.

And here’s a close-up of the pig-like humu in the corner of the watercolor above. Love this guy.

Sylvia and I did a lot of snorkeling. I’m not in the greatest physical condition this summer, and I’d practically die from holding my breath and exerting myself, but it was worth it.

We all went to a luau organized be the Hanalei Canoe Club—it was maybe not quite so generic as a hotel luau. Next the Hanalei River, and it was raining and you could drink coconuts and then get a tray of more-or-less cafeteria-style food and sit with a bunch of locals under a big tent, it was kind of great.

I get pretty excited when I see rain.

And the worn canoes.

I bought a t-shirt from some beautiful young Hawaiian women. Wahines, I guess you can say.

And then, oh my god, they had hula dancers. So great.

I can never quite figure out how the women attain such a high vibrational frequency in their harrumph motions.

A guy came out and did some routines with fire. He mentioned that normally it was too dangerous to do this show under a tent, but since it was raining—oh well.

He had dancers too.

It was a really nice vacation for Sylvia and me. And then when we got back, I cranked on my revisions for about three weeks and got the second (and possibly final) draft of Million Mile Road Trip done.

Finis coronat opus.


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