Archive for the ‘Million Mile Road Trip’ Category


Mojo Working. JOURNALS Funded.

I got my writing mojo back, returned from the underworld one more time, and I’m busy with my next novel Million Mile Roadtrip again, piling on the eyeball kicks, the unlikely incidents, and the rude dialog. Having fun with it. Kicking with my third hip. Like a Puppeteer, if you remember those three-legged guys from Niven’s classic Ringworld.


Here’s my current design for the cover for my Journals. You can click on it to make it bigger. I made it to the fundraising goal for my Kickstarter drive a couple of days ago. Many thanks to you kind and generous souls out there.

The odd thing is that, financially at least, I do better by self-publishing my books and running Kickstarters for them. Which is not to say that I might not go back to a commerical publisher for Million Mile Roadtrip — which is meant to be a book that can sell into the young adult market. At least that’s what I think, but publishers have been known to disagree with my judgements! I’ll have to see what happens. Even if I do have a commercial option for it, I may ultimately go the Kickstart / self-pub route anyway. In any case, Million Mile Roadtrip won’t be done till late this fall at the earliest. My characters are still just fixing up their car and they’ve got…a million miles to go.

Last week my wife and I hit this ancient North Beach bar called the Saloon. They have live blues there all the time and real x-section of people…not techs and yups all that much. Brown people in the mix.

I loved this one Hawaiian couple sitting at the bar near us. At some point, with no change of expression, the woman gets up and starts dancing—or, rather, making ritualized dance gestures with her arms, forearms up, forearms down. Love the dance gesture.

The band (Johnny Nitro and the Doorslammers) played one long, mostly instrumental, song with the chorus, “I’ll take you there,” and indeed the music did take me “there” to a land of peace and zonkfulness and clear white light.


“Saucer Hall” oil and acrylic on canvas, February, 2015, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

And then I turned around and used that song/experience in a new chapter for my novel called “Saucer Hall.” I love it when the real world snaps right on top of whatever I’m writing. The muse in action.


Contact sheet of some images to appear in my online Photo Supplement for my JOURNALS. Click for a gigundo zoomable version of the sheet.

If I can raise a little more dough for my Journals, I’ll put in the time to make an online photo supplement with lots of photos to plug into the text.

At this point in tech, it’s not practical to put the photos into the paperback/hardback or into the ebooks. For a print book, it makes the books too long and too unwieldy to edit, and for the ebooks, it makes the file too big to comfortably download. So I’ll just figure out some kind of web site design for posting the images.

Saw all these people digging for beach glass in Davenport, CA, last month. Like sea turtles laying eggs. Maybe the beach was, in the old days, a dump? (Thus the profusion of glass.) Always interesting to see a crowd of humans intent on something like this.

Hadn’t been to Davenport in awhile. Love the water-sculpted rocks, and the patterns of the seaweed. Mother nature, always the greatest artist of all.

Skiing in Wyoming. New Hip.

Sylvia and I were in Pinedale, Wyoming, for four nights, visiting our daughter Isabel.

You fly into Jackson Hole, and wham, you’re in the Tetons.

Isabel has a jewelry store in Pinedale. I love looking at all the stuff in her shop.

Nothing more fascinating than the studio of a working artist.

For me the high point of the trip was when I went cross-country skiing on virgin snow on a high mountain ridge above Fremont Lake with Isabel and her husband Gus. Such a feel of being on another planet.

On the trip I was reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 all the while. Alternating between feeling despair and hope about my own novel. He has lot of so-called terraria and aquaria, which are little worlds made from hollowed-out asteroids, in some ways like the basin worlds my characters will drive through. I like his focus on the different kinds of biomes, like alpine, rain forest, taiga, arctic, forest.

KSR excels at nature writing—staggering scenes on Mercury, Saturn, and Earth. And he gets into deep stuff about social history, quite serious and enlightening…when I do that, it’s more in a satirical Sheckley-style way.

It’s always fun walking around Pinedale. I like how this one guy has an old 1930s car in his front yard. Very R. Crumb, I think of the cover of Zap Comix #0 .

Another shot of me high up on the peak. I wear these things called gaiters around my ankles and my shins when I ski—they keep the snow from getting into your low-cut ski shoes. A tricky thing about my old gaiters is that, in order to fasten the snaps on their outer sides, I kind of need to push my knees in towards the center and twist my body.

But this is a bad thing to do if you have artificial hips, you can pop your hip out this way. I have two artificial hips: one (less good) from 2011, and one (slightly better model) from 2012.

On my last afternoon in Pinedale, I popped out the old artificial hip on my left side by twisting, squatting, and turning my knee to fasten that button my ski gaiter. I was pitifully excited about taking another ski, this one was to be on the surface of the frozen lake.

A slow crunch and slide and it’s out. It’s the third time a pop has happened on that truly crappy left hip. The previous two times I went to a clinic and the people there sedated me, pulled really hard on my leg, and popped the hip back in.

But the medics in the Pinedale clinic were somehow unable to do this, although at first we didn’t realize that they’d failed. Long story short, I underwent a grinding level-eight-out-of-ten pain haze on a very long and much delayed air trip back to my regular hip doctor in Los Gatos. I was taking a pain pill every two or three hours, which leveled it out for me. Flatness of affect.

I did see one pain + meds hallucination, a guy at a table near us in a terminal during our endless airplane trip, the guy was wearing a dark beige parka, and for a moment the wrinkled hood shape looked like a creased face containing a single large eye. Everything’s of value if you’re an SF writer.

I’d hoped my Los Gatos doctor could just pop the hip back in, but he felt it would be better to do a full re-install—with a new fake hip. An “amendment” as they call it. Went to the hospital and pre-registered, which took a really long time, with lots of redundant filling out of very nearly identical forms.

As I was riding the pain pills, the very prolonged form-filling-out process didn’t bother me. Calm acceptance. At ease in the moment. Able to stare at a talking face without caring what it’s saying. But, it’s not like being high—it’s not satisfying. It’s more like being tired. I can use this mental quality for the state of mind of one of my aliens.

Driving back from the pre-registration, with the operation slated for the next morning, we stopped by the supermarket and I wondered if I might be about to die. I used a trick I like to do when in this situation, I looked for the beauty in the world around me. Fluorescent lights and reflected trees.

The next morning I went under the knife for three hours, with spinal tap anaesthetic for my lower body, and they dosed me with Michael Jackson propofol for my head. Eventually I awoke in fits and starts in a large room with at least a dozen or maybe twenty patients coming to. Like deep-sleeper starship troopers being resuscitated. Everyone is completely out of it. Like, “Huh?” and “Wha?” The surgery recovery room. No family members allowed in here, just nurses and aides, fully unintelligible.

Conversations around me, and I imagine the conversations are important and that they include remarks directed towards me, or instructions I’m supposed to follow, or opportunities I need to pick up on. I have the feeling that the conversations relate to surfing. I try to say something in response, but I’m not sure I really do. I keep nodding off, sinking back into deep inattention.

I spent a day in the hospital, and the doctor let me go home early. Lots of pills. On the nod. He scraped my bone away from the old socket like a diver using his knife to free an anchor fluke from fans of overgrown coral. And sliced and sewed my flesh.

These two pushy physical-therapy-counselor women kept coming by my hospital room right before I left. They wanted to lecture me about the importance of exercise and careful motion, and even though at some level I knew they were right, they seemed bossy, impatient, condescending. One of the women was threatening to block my release.

It was handy to be fully loaded on meds—so I that could vacantly and insolently stare at this talking face that annoyed me, tuning it out.

Back home now, with a solid new hip, recuperating pretty fast, already able to walk, and doing an hour of therapy exercise every day. With a fresh bundle of useful SF material. And none of the pain takes away the joy of skiing that high ridge. And the joy of seeing the Isabel Jewelry world headquarters.

3 New Paintings for MILLION MILE ROAD TRIP

I’m moving along on my next novel, Million Mile Roadtrip. I’m maybe 20% done, which feels like it’s enough so that I can act like I’m actually going to write the whole book. I already posted about the book on January, 11, 2015, talking about how I was thinking of this as a YA book, as my characters are 13, 17, and 18.

I’ve done three new paintings for the novel recently.

“Deep Space Saucers” oil on canvas, January, 2015, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

This is, in a way, an abstract painting. An exercise in composition and hue. I was thinking of the painter Larry Poons, who flourished in the ’60s with compositions of ovals scattered across a large canvas. Of course I’d rather draw 3D saucers than 2D ovals. So I started out with the saucers, then found a nice background color that makes me think of deep space, very far from any nearby stars. Over several days layering hues onto the saucers, I slowly homed in on the colors for them. I was thinking of the colors of Populuxe ’50s cars. I see those ovals on the undersides of the saucers as being eyes.

This isn’t a direct prefiguring of anything in the novel—but I am in fact thinking about having a bunch of flying saucers in there. I’m seeing the saucers as organic living beings who are in a sense like vampires. They glom onto people and suck their blood. And if you get bitten often enough by a saucer-thing, you may turn into one yourself. Yeeek!

“Tree of Life” oil on canvas, February, 2015, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

For this one, I started out by putting a lot of paint and gel medium in the top half of the canvas and finger painting with it. Doing that made my finger hurt—and Paul Mavrides was quick to tell me that paint is poisonous. So next time I fingerpaint on a canvas, I’ll wear a rubber glove.

Anyway, I decided this would be the foliage a tree, and that I’d put cool aliens under it—I needed mental images of aliens for Million Mile Road Trip. My characters were just driving into a night market in the alternate world where they’re gonna do their big drive. I used variations on a Picasso-style face that Jasper Johns included in his 1990 painting called, unhelpfully, Untitled. And then I put a little one of these guys in the tree with an umbilical cord. I think of this painting as showing parents awaiting the birth of their baby.

I didn’t much use the baby in the chapter I ended up writing, but one of those bobbly heads joined my characters and will go along on the road trip. She calls herself Meatball.

“Saucer Hall” acrylic on canvas with oil paint glaze, February, 2015, 30” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

I started this more or less at random, playing with the paint, using acrylic for a change. I was out in my back yard, painting with my twin granddaughters, each of us with their own canvas. And then the triangle made me think of the Supreme Court building, which suggested a “Saucer Hall” where UFOs gather. We ran out of yellow acrylic paint, so the painting was a little greener and bluer than I wanted, even after I worked on it the next day.

So the day after the next day (Feb 25, 2015) I did another session on the painting. Turns out its okay to glaze on oil paint layers on top of an acrylic painting, once the acrylic is good and dry, and with the proviso that the acrylic isn’t super glossy. So I didn’t have to go out for a tube of yellow acrylic paint. So I layered on some glazes and now the final version looks good/

Before I added the final oil-paint glaze layers, the painting had that dreaded “art school hallway” look, with all the color areas flat and monochromatic and raw. Nice and rich now. And in the final touchup, I had the idea of putting a sun/star/wormhole/eye in the middle of the triangle. The saucers have a hypertunnel inside of Saucer Hall, you understand…

And now I’m gonna put a Saucer Hall into my novel. All those nasty saucer-beings are gathering there, and if a human wanders in, they are in big trouble.

As always, these paintings are for sale. You can find more info on my Paintings page.

What else is new? I rode my bike 24 miles to Santa Cruz on Saturday, that was kind of awesome. Not the the ride was that stupendous—it was a foggy day, and the traffic was kind of heavy. But the fact that I could do this ride and not fall over dead made me feel pretty optimistic.

Synchronistically enough, when I rolled into downtown Cruz, I saw a street rod that looked like—a rolling coffin. But not for me, not this month.

And in the evening Sylvia and I went to see the Santa Cruz Derby Girls at the Cruz Civic Auditorium, a cozy old place, a good time.

One more derby girls shot. It was a round robin among the three SC teams: Redwood Rebels, Steamer Janes, and Organic Panic.

The Complete Zap Comix

Sylvia and I went to the book launch party for the Complete Zap Comix boxed set at City Lights this week. There were 17 issues of Zap, running from #0 through the new #16 included with the set.


[Graffiti at Sloat Street beach in San Francisco.]

Of the eight Zap artists, Paul Mavrides, Robert Williams, and Victor Moscoso were there. Spain Rodriguez and Rick Griffin are dead. S. Clay Wilson has brain damage from a fall. Gilbert Shelton and R. Crumb remained in France.

There’s a famous story about Crumb declining to participate in the traditional group “jam session” comic for Zap #14, and the other artists were mad at him. In the resulting jam, various seedy and eldritch cartoon characters are bringing R. Crumb’s amputated penis and the tattooed mummy of T. V. pitchwoman Betty Furness to the court of a king. A dessert is served to the king. Here’s the fairly hilarious conclusion of that jam, this frame largely drawn by Shelton with Wilson in the background, and with the follow-up frame including Spain and Mavrides.

A frame from “(Self) Important Comics” in Zap #14, pen and ink on paper, Copyright © 1998 by Gilbert Shelton, Paul Mavrides, Spain, Robert Williams, Victor Moscoso, and S. Clay Wilson” Click for a larger version of this image plus the next frame.

I was planning not to buy the massive six volume + portfolio of prints Complete Zap Comix—the price is exorbitant. But, filled with the joy of talking to Robert Williams (who did the cover of the first edition of my book All the Visions) and to my pal Paul Mavrides . My mind snapped and went ahead and bought the thing.

You can see a lot of work by Robert Williams on his website. Paul Mavrides doesn’t have a website for his work, but you can do a Google image search to see lots of photos of his work, and of him. Also he had a show at the Steven Wolf gallery last year. And here’s a PDF of an interview I did with Paul for Mondo 2000 back in 1993 when Paul was painting on black velvet.

I wish I could meet Gilbert Shelton sometime. His work, Philbert Desanex’ 100,000th Dream is one of my all time favorites, and I dream of writing a novel that’s somehow akin to it.

Cover of Zap #8, Copyright © R. Crumb 1974, from the Complete Zap Comix portfolio Click for a larger version of the image.

The set includes high-quality prints of the old covers, one of my favorites is shown above. This image has always unsettled me in a deep way, as I can so easily visualize myself doing what this man has done. It’s a transreal depiction of overly wild mental self-examination or self-warping—and I’ve done a lot of that over the years, as part of my creative process of believing (temporarily) some really strange ideas while getting my head into the right space for writing my various SF and pop-sci works.

“I Once Was Blind” oil on canvas, January, 2015, 18” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

I finished a new painting of my own this week. It was inspired the work of Keith Haring that I saw in his big show at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco—I posted about this show earlier this month.

My painting is called I Once Was Blind , taken from a line of the gospel hymn “Amazing Grace,” as in, “I once was blind, but now I see.” The saucers are enlightening the benighted humans below. These days I tend to think of UFOs as organic living beings—and not as spaceships with aliens inside them. The saucers are the aliens. Like rubbery flying jellyfish. They can attach themselves to things like leeches or limpets. Each of them has a single large eye. I’m going to be using these saucer being are going to be appearing in my next novel, Million Mile Road Trip, which is starting to come along pretty well these days.

By the way, I Once Was Blind and many of my other paintings are for sale online via my Paintings page. I recently lowered all my prices—particularly the prices of my older works—and I really hope to sell one of them this month. I need to recoup some of that money I blew on The Complete Zap Comix!

Back to that Zap launch event for a minute. The assembled artists did a panel, telling stories about the old days. Robert Williams is probably the best raconteur of the lot. He has a southern/western accent that’s superficially at odds with his deeply transgressive paintings and his juvenile-delinquent hoodlum demeanor (even at age 70)—and somehow this makes his stories even funnier.

Williams got his start working as the art director for the legendary hot-rod artist Big Daddy Roth in Southern California. After Williams got in with the Zap Comix crew, he took R. Crumb down to meet the heroic Big Daddy. Says Williams, “Crumb showed Roth his sketch book, and Roth was leaning over it and a long strand of drool came out of his mouth and dripped onto a page of Crumb’s sketch book. Drool right out of his mouth. End of story.”


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