Christopher Farnsworth

Author of Blood Oath, The Eternal World, and Killfile

Tag: writers (page 1 of 2)

Recommended Reading: Friends and Well-Wishers Edition

If you’re taking a leisurely five-day weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July, you’re going to need something to read. And I’m assuming you’ve already read all the adventures of everyone’s favorite patriotic vampire. So it’s time for you folks to branch out a little.

If you’re looking for something scary, then I suggest the latest collection of short stories from my friend and teacher John Rember. Sudden Death Over Time is set almost entirely among the academics at a tiny liberal arts college as they struggle to find their own reasons to live. And while that might not sound like the stuff of horror, in places it is absolutely terrifying. John’s prose is as mercilessly lucid as ever, and he wrestles with the existential questions most of us prefer to avoid without strong chemicals. My personal favorite was the piece about the professor who’d personally taken charge of the college’s stash of deadly materials accumulated in the glory days  of the Cold War, when you could get plutonium and biotoxins through the mail. You can order the book direct from the publisher here.

Coming To My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride is by Alyssa Harad, another refugee, like me, from the great state of Idaho. I admit, I haven’t read this yet, but Alyssa was always a gifted and ridiculously smart writer, so it’s worth checking out. It hits July 5, and sounds fascinating. After thinking of herself as primarily a bookish intellectural, she discovers an unknown sensual obsession in perfume just before she’s about to get married. Think Eat, Pray, Love without the entitlement issues. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this hit Oprah-like levels of success, so get your copy now.

Yet another Boise native, Stephanie Reents just released The Kissing List, a collection of short stories about the early days of semi-adulthood: the escape from grad school; the first, crappy apartments; and the inevitable collisions with love and mortality. Filled with effortless, elegant prose and surprising moments of grace.

When I was at the University of Riverside’s Palm Desert MFA program, (#humblebrag) I got to meet a writer I’ve admired for a long time, Steve Almond. He was gracious about my fanboy piddling all over his sneakers, so I suggest you pick up his new collection of stories, God Bless America, or any of his seriously funny, smart and occasionally sex-drenched work.

Or you can do yourself a favor and read anything by Emily Rapp and be amazed by her ability, her strength, and her breathtaking honesty. (Seriously, I write about vampires to avoid thinking about the stuff she confronts in just a few paragraphs.)

Then there’s Tod Goldberg, whose work will break your heart repeatedly. (Bastard.) His acclaimed novel, Fake Liar Cheat, is back in print, and available for your greedy fingers again.

After all that, you might be in the mood for some lighthearted mayhem. Fortunately, my friend Cody Goodfellow has got you covered. His book, All-Monster Action, destroys the entire planet in a war fought between weaponized Godzillas and bioengineered freaks, and it is ridiculously fun.

Finally, there’s Glen Duncan’s Tallula Rising, the sequel to The Last Werewolf. It’s brilliant. Read both books if you haven’t already. Then read everything else he’s done. Duncan is one of the greatest prose stylists I’ve ever read. Werewolves and vampires are just the bacon and hot fudge on top of the sundae.

As it turns out, there’s nothing like monsters fighting monsters to take your mind off — or maybe illuminate — the great struggle of humanity to simply live through all the joy and pain the world serves up to us, every day.

Okay. That should hold you until at least next week. Get reading.

Tour Diary

It’s always an act of sheerest optimism when I bring my keyboard on any solo trip these days. Much like the running shoes that take up space in my bag, I start each trip believing in a better version of myself who will blog from the road after a workout in the hotel fitness center before knocking out a couple chapters over a healthy breakfast, maybe yogurt or granola or something artery-soothing like that.

By the end of the trip, of course, I’m cursing the running shoes for taking up valuable space for the books I’ve bought at every stop, usually while mildly hung over, eating a rasher of bacon from the free hotel buffet.  And then I start the next game of “Bejeweled” on my iPad.

I had a great trip despite not morphing into that better version of myself. The people at Powell’s in Portland and Tattered Cover in Denver were incredible and generous, both the staff and the audiences. April at Tattered Cover went above and beyond, staying up late to read my first book and then coming in on her day off to introduce me.

But right now I want to talk about Houston.

I love Houston’s Murder By The Book, which has pretty much jammed my books down the throats of every one of its customers. I owe David Thompson a great deal, because he was an early and enthusiastic evangelist for me. I only met him once, but I can see why he is so greatly missed.

At the rental bay at George H.W. Bush Intercontinental airport1, the clerk offered me a VW bug, and in a burst of extremely ill-timed nostalgia, I took him up on it. He seemed a little shocked and even made a short attempt to change my mind, but I drove a convertible VW off and on from high school to grad school, until it burst into flame at an intersection. So before I thought it through — at the very least, I should have realized there was no place to put my portable GPS — I was zipping along the road listening to classic rock and the cheerfully mumble of my computer navigator where it had fallen on the floor like a drunk face-down on the carpet.

I found myself in heavy traffic on a Saturday. (Last year at about this time, the streets all seemed deserted. I thought there must be an event or a game, but the staff at MBTB told me that’s just standard Houston traffic. I decided the economy must be recovering.)

A disturbing number of the drivers in Houston have what could be described as an aggressively relaxed attitude behind the wheel. In LA, I’m used to people who drive fast and hard. But in Houston, some drivers — usually marked by crushed door panels and fenders — combine 80 mph speeds with a dreamy kind of inattention to their surroundings.  It’s as if, so high up behind the wheels of their SUVs and megatrucks, comfortably snug in their big leather seats, they’ve forgotten they’re on a highway at all, and think they’re on the couch at home — until they see their exit, and then it’s a sudden, complete stop and a five-lane change with a brief blink of the turn signal like a warning shot.

Despite that, I’ve got a growing, weird affection for Houston. Previously, I’d only been through the city on layovers, so all I saw was the airport.  But I love the Four Points where I stay, with its retro-future theme. I’m in awe of the comic book store, Third Planet, that’s conveniently located next door. And through the whole city, you can still see an overlay of the space-age JFK-era optimism that persists in the design of its freeways and the neon of old motels.

Like everywhere else, the reading and signing was a great deal of fun. I love that people care enough about my stories to show up in person and ask me what the deal is with Cade and Tania, or that they’re glad to see Zach has grown up since BLOOD OATH. I’m still a little flattered and incredulous that people buy my books and it makes me grateful.Whenever I wonder why the hell I’m cramming myself into a kiddie seat on a tin can filled with jet fuel instead of staying home with my family and my favorite shows on TiVo, this is the answer.

This week I’ll be climbing into another series of tin cans and kiddie seats, going to Seattle, then Boise for the crucial hometown gig, then back to San Diego before Phoenix a few days later. More info, as always, right here. Hope to see you out on the road.

 

1It’s a little baffling to me why George H.W. Bush was ever considered a wimp. The guy was a genuine war hero who survived  ditching his plane into the Pacific while Ronald Reagan simply play-acted at being a soldier. Then he became a multi-millionaire  rather than live off his family fortune. In the 1970s, he was named head of the CIA — in effect, America’s James Bond. Whatever your politics, that’s a fairly impressive resume of studly accomplishments. Yet somehow, people still think of him as the dorky hall monitor in our line-up of chief executives. All of this came to mind when I saw his statue at the airport:

Book Tour: Mysterious Galaxy 5.23.10

The signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego was a real honor — it’s one of the motherships for geeks in the country, and they showed great faith in a first-time author like me. Many thanks to Maryelizabeth, Patrick, Michael and everyone else at the store. Thanks also to the incredibly prolific author Nathan Long, author of Bloodborn, who was kind enough to share the time and his knowledge with me and the audience. I even got to see an old friend from high school and former colleagues from my misadventures in journalism. You can read more at my friend Diana’s blog, Paranormal Romance.

Photo by Diana McCabe

Book Tour: First Stop

Absolutely great first stop at Barnes & Noble in the Grove in Los Angeles. Many thanks to William and the entire crew for making it such an amazing experience. And many thanks to the people who all showed up.

A Map of Thomas Pynchon's Los Angeles

thomas-pynchon-simpsonsThomas Pynchon — to whom I am very, very distantly related by marriage, which is one of the many fantastic benefits I owe to my endlessly wonderful wife — lived in Los Angeles while he was writing Gravity’s Rainbow, and Mark Horowitz of Wired argues that he’s the city’s greatest writer. That’s a little unfair, I think — you plunk Pynchon down in any city, he’s going to be the greatest writer there, alive or dead.

But more importantly, Horowitz also provides this detailed map of the L.A. locations used by Pynchon in his work, including the latest novel, Inherent Vice, which drops on the general public next week. (By the way, Skylight Books is staying open until midnight to release the book on Aug. 4. I cannot tell you how great it is that someone views a Pynchon novel with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for Harry Potter or a new Batman film.)

Anyone who visits all of the places listed on the map will receive a coupon for a free slice from the Bodhi Dharma Pizza Temple in Vineland, delivered by the Tristero postal service.

(Found via LA Observed.)

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