Winding down the Tour.

My first official reading for CaliforniumKGW_Oct_2017 was July 5, 2016. In terms of proper premieres, this one had it all:

  • A full two weeks before the novel’s official release date of July 19
  • An amazing venue—the second-oldest bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal, Livraria Ferin (1840)
  • A great bill that included David Caplan and Frank X. Gaspar
  • A full house featuring so many writers I admire—Molly Antopol, Erica Dawson, Annie Liontas, Denis Johnson, Maaza Mengiste, Jeff Parker, Arthur Flowers, Chanan Tigay, and more.

It was nerve-racking to kick off a new book, my first novel, that way, and it was perfect. People laughed at the parts that were supposed to be funny and, just as importantly, didn’t laugh at the parts that weren’t.

Since then, readings for Californium have taken me to both coasts, seven states, several bookstores, one book group, a few college campuses, and the occasional book festival. I’ve given interviews for print and podcasts, and I even got to be live on NPR one evening with three other writers.

Though there is nothing official about my upcoming reading being the last of a two-year tour for Californium, it has that feel to it:

  • A sizeable city close to my home
  • An amazing venue—the Carnegie Centre in the historic section of Lexington
  • A great bill that includes Shayla Lawson and Kathryn Ormsbee
  • An event I’ve long hoped to be a part of: The Kentucky Great Writers reading series

I’m sure I’ll read from Californium again. I’ve never stopped loving the book and have never grown tired of dropping into the world of Reece, Keith, Treat, Edie, van Doren, and C_qmDmUXoAEyz7MDikNixon. It’s always a pleasure to go there. But, I’m also glad to be transitioning more and more attention to finishing the next two projects—an essay collection and a novel. The former is close and the latter, who knows, but I like where it’s going so far.

So, this coming Tuesday, I hope all goes as it has gone since that first reading in Lisbon, which is warm and friendly, fun, and well. That’s a proper way to wind down the tour, to end the chapter, and to begin the next.

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That Day My Novel Came Out and I Was Where?

Livraria BertrandLong before I had a book deal or even an agent for my first novel, Californium, back when it was just a manuscript, I knew, well I believed, it was a book somebody would want some day. So, even then I’d think about that day Californium would be published, and where I’d be.

Today, July 19, 2016, is that day. Am I giving a reading at some bookstore in New York City? That always seemed like the right thing to do even if in all my trips to New York bookstores (two), I’d never caught a reading. But no, that’s not the plan.

Will I be at a launch party tonight in Hollywood, perhaps at the World Famous Whisky a Go Go (it shows up in the novel) where a lot of old So Cal friends, and a So Cal punk band or two, maybe Social Distortion or The Offspring, will play? Nope.

Perhaps I’m giving a reading somewhere near the university where I teach, maybe the public library or the local arts council, something low key, but nice, and still a celebration? Not that either.

Where am I on this day, that day, the day I’ve long dreamed about? Lisbon. No, my novel has nothing to July 16, 2016 001do with Portugal, or Europe, or anything historical beyond the early eighties punk scene set down amidst California’s growing military industrial complex (in a funny way, I promise). This is the third week of a teaching assignment with Disquiet International and Bluegrass Writers Studio Low-Res MFA program. I committed to it before the pub date was set.

I’m not complaining. A little over a week ago, I got to read from Californium at Livraria Ferin, a landmark bookstore in Lisbon where, should you choose, you can read from Fernando Pessoa’s desk (it’s tall like a podium because, apparently, he liked to write standing up). I had the honor of reading with David Caplan and Frank X. Gaspar. And Pesoas podiumover these past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of attending so many other great readings around this historic city—Padgett Powell, Molly Antopol, Maaza Mengiste, John Herrin, Mikhail Iossel, Chanan Tigay, Annie Liontas, Arthur Flowers, Sabina Murray, Afonso Cruz, and National Book Award Winner, Denis Johnson (who I am blatantly name-dropping here because he came to my reading too and laughed at all the right places, which may be the most authentic kind of positive review I could ever hope for).

The post-launch readings and book signings will be waiting for me back in the States, and I’m excited for them all. But for now, on this day, to be in Pessoa’s city; to daily walk by Bertrand Chiado, the oldest bookstore in the world; to be among all these writers whose work reminds me of why I do this in the first place; it all seems more than appropriate. Maybe it should have been the plan all along.

It’s pub day, I’m in Portugal, and other than really looking forward to getting home to my wife and kids in a few days, I couldn’t be more thankful.