Racism news parallels montana blues

Tones of violent racism in Montana run through my new novel, and recent news from the Daily Montanan shows the threat is real:

Marquayvion Hughes, a Black student at Montana State University in Bozeman (where Montana Blues is set), quit the university “in part because he no longer wanted to face white supremacism, he said. He was called the ‘n’ word at MSU, saw Nazi propaganda in trash cans on campus, and heard Bobcats at a football game ‘screaming racial slurs to members of the other team.’ …

“One student said she reported a poster with Nazi imagery and eugenics propaganda placed on her car. She saw similar posters plastered to poles around the parking lot.” …

Alexandra Lin, an MSU student “who is part Taiwanese … said she has received numerous death threats, graphic images of Asian porn, and racist messages, such as an email telling her to ‘Kill yourself, ch–k.'”

Montana blues in indiana

Now my new novel has wandered into Indiana, thanks to two eccentric Joes — Joe Rhodes (a semi-retired writer for major magazines such as Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone, somehow living in a van traveling North America for the last 14 years), and Joe Vitti (a semi-retired photographer for major newspapers including the LA Times and the Indianapolis Star, now living in Indiana). Here are pix of the Joes and the van in Indiana, and the van’s roaming to the California desert. Thanks, Joes!

Montana Blues goes fishing

My new novel is getting around, recently it went fishing off the Oregon coast, near the mouth of the Siuslaw River. My friend Mark Sabitt shot the photo, and he reports, Montana Blues seemed to inspire good luck on the line (a big Chinook salmon) … Mark is a retired defense attorney who serves as an assistant judge in Eugene’s Municipal Court.

a tiny lizard in my living room

A tiny lizard has been zipping around my Tucson living room, very aware and quick. I zoomed in to see it better — super cute. I think it’s an ornate tree lizard, a native species in the Southwest desert.

hummer in my hand

Today I was in the living room by a big window and heard a soft thump. I realized that a bird flying outside had hit the glass. I went out and spotted a hummingbird lying on its back on the ground. I picked up the tiny bird and gently coaxed it back to consciousness for a few minutes. Then it flew off, wonderful. … Yeah, Tucson. Now I’m going to put stickers on the window so birds can see the glass better (I already put stickers on the sliding-glass door a while ago).

my process

My process begins with ideas, of course, and listening to the words. Deep into it, I’ll print out a draft of a novel, then I’ll reread and rewrite, then I’ll print out another draft for another round of rereading and rewriting, and so on. I’ll do some doubling-back to see what I had in some previous draft, all of this for draft after draft until I need to stick my head in a bucket of ice. Sometimes the writing feels as good and easy as singing. Sometimes it’s like digging up rocks with a pickaxe, still kind of enjoyable because it’s solving problems.

montana blues with tom zoellner

A nice surprise — my new novel showed up in the hands of Tom Zoellner during Tom’s August 9 online talk for the Border Community Alliance. Tom is based in the L.A. area, and I was watching his talk on my computer, enjoying his remarks about his eighth book, Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona. Suddenly he’s recommending my novel to the audience, saying that Montana Blues is “really outstanding fiction … a fast-moving, suspenseful story.” Tom is an Editor-at-Large for the Los Angeles Review of Books, along with teaching as an English prof at Chapman University. Kindness is one of his traits. Thanks, Tom.