Today, in honor of World AIDS Day, here’s a story about my friend Norbert, whom I miss very much.
Keep dancing. And keep working toward a cure.
For more about World AIDS Day, please go here: http://www.worldaidsday.org/
Today, in honor of World AIDS Day, here’s a story about my friend Norbert, whom I miss very much.
Keep dancing. And keep working toward a cure.
For more about World AIDS Day, please go here: http://www.worldaidsday.org/
I’m thrilled to announce that today is the pub day for my sixth novel, WE ARE ALL STRANGERS HERE—a story about a dysfunctional southern family, addiction, pedophilia, cannibalism, and the last days of New Wave, interwoven with the lucid dreaming of Manuel, a Sandinista rebel facing execution in 1986. It’s difficult for me to be “sales-y,” but I’m immensely proud of the work, which took me five years to write, and I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy. Thanks so much.
My publicist, Shana, tells me I should “take a more proactive role” in promoting the book. So, you can now follow me on Twitter @TheNovelNovelist. On Facebook: WeRAllStrange. Tumblr: Write2Live. Instagram: StrangerBook. (Warning: Lots of pictures of our cat dressed as Ian McKellen.) Working on getting a YouTube channel, which…anybody know anything about how to shoot, edit, and score videos? Call me! Also blogging for Huffpo, making lists for Buzzfeed, moderating at Reddit, GIF-ing at Giphy, and helming a new podcast, The Novel Life. Whew! Not sure when I’ll write the next book, but every little bit helps, they say.
For those who were confused, yes, WE ARE ALL STRANGERS HERE is under my pseudonym, T. J. Barrow. My publisher thought a fresh start with a gender-neutral name was the way to get my underwhelming sales record back on track. Don’t want to have to resort to self-publishing. LOL!
I’m sorry for any offense my last email may have caused. I know many of you have self-published, which is totally a viable option. Mary, what you did to promote your adoption memoir, rolling naked in paint at Burning Man, selling it out of your trunk at Ren Faire while singing medieval doggerel? Well, that’s just heroic. I’ve downloaded your book as well as Dan’s poetry collection, SONGS OF MY PENIS & OTHER CELEBRATIONS; Tibi’s children’s book, WHY DO I HAVE A NAVEL? and Chris & Juniper’s spoken word collaboration, AWAKE. A WAKE. You are riding the wave of the future, friends, and I salute you. Mary, if you could see your way clear to taking down that flame war you started on my Facebook timeline, I’d appreciate it. My kids read that page. I’ve had to explain a lot.
Thanks to my new publicist, Tara (Shana left for a “quieter life” as a Navy Seal), I’ve got my first bookstore reading! This Saturday, 2:00 PM, I’ll be on a panel with local horticulturist, Sven Svensson (WHAT DO THE FLOWERS FEEL?), and former porn-set fluffier, Jeremy “Feather Touch” Dorado (STAYING UP). We’ll be reading and signing in the back of the store behind the story-time circle. Just follow the sound of the folk guitar and recorder. Trigger warning: clowns.
Thanks to both Charles and Lexie for coming to my reading. Lexie, again, I don’t set the retail price for the book. I know things are free on the Internet. Free doesn’t pay for a new transmission in the Toyota. Charles, I’m so glad you were able to find a copy of my third novel, FINGERS OF RAIN, at your church tag sale “for only a quarter.” Haha. Hard to believe I spent three goddamn years researching that thing on the Oregon Trail, pissing into a Coke bottle, and eating worms I dug out of the frozen earth. But really, just knowing the books find their way into that special reader’s hands and heart is what matters most. P.S. Anybody know anything about the side effects of Oxycontin? Asking for a friend.
Will also take Vicodin,
I’ll be doing a LiveStream Q & A this Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. I know it’s right smack in the middle of the workday, but it’s still great exposure according to my new, new publicist, Lana. (Tara had a breakdown? Something about lying in the fetal position under her desk surrounded by a stash of office Keurig cups.) Anyway, if you want to watch my Q&A later, just look under BARROW, T.J., and scroll through the first two hundred-forty videos till you get to mine. Hint: I am not the program about T.J. Barrow, the serial killer.
Comin’ at ya live,
I’m glad to hear you all enjoyed the serial killer video. I hear it’s been optioned for a movie. Asking again about painkillers. Who’s holding?
From a godless universe,
Good news! I’m going to be on “Maximum Novel!” with BookTube sensation, Mika XL. Don’t know if you’ve ever watched “Maximum Novel!” (links here and here) but it’s sort of a quasi-interview/Japanese game show format. I’ll be answering questions about my book’s themes of patriarchal corrosion, rampant consumerism, and the fraying of the American family while simultaneously being rotated on a wall-mounted wheel as guests pummel my body with a variety of (mostly) soft objects. Filling out the medical release form now.
Thanks so much for your concern. The doctors think I’ll be back to normal in six weeks, and Mika XL’s lawyer sent the loveliest flowers. Bonus: Oxycontin.
This too shall pass,
News flash! I just found out I’ve got a corporate sponsorship opportunity? Colon Cleanse, Inc. is going to feature my book in their fall newsletter, which has a circulation of more than 10,000 dedicated readers. In exchange, I’ve agreed to let Colon Cleanse, Inc. simulcast my first colonoscopy in order to increase colon health awareness. Like my newest publicist, Mara, says: This is such a tremendous opportunity to remove a stigma and do some good for the world. It’s humbling to think that my little book could possibly save lives. #Grateful
Apparently, the colonoscopy found polyps? Anybody had these? Anyway, I’m supposed to follow a high-fiber diet and give up booze. Ha!
What the fuck,
WE ARE ALL STRANGERS HERE has been optioned for a TV show! It’ll mostly focus on Manuel, the Sandinista rebel, (now called “Manny” and played by one of those Dancing with the Stars people) and his band of vigilante superhero soldiers from the planet XTron who are actually rogue CIA astronauts sent to infiltrate the Communists and sabotage the Soviets. The studio is excited. Big merch opportunities. (Please see attached t-shirt design: “Time to Manny up.”) P.S. I have a new publicist. I don’t know her name.
For those of you who slammed my blog’s comments thread about the Manny Up shirts, re: “selling out,” “betraying all that is holy,” and “trading craft for whoredom”—here’s one for you: Ted lost his teaching job, and the ten-year-old needs braces because her teeth are so fucked up they literally can be seen from space. I am not kidding. Some asshole kids in her class Google mapped “Harper’s big-ass teeth,” screen capped it, and left it in her locker. The world is doomed and I don’t know why we bother creating art.
Full disclosure#: I aM drunk. Seriousley fuck8in drunk. Tomrrow: I will a!so be drunk. Friday: Still DRunk.
Don’t know if you saw the announcement in Variety, but serial killer T.J. Barrow just got a seven-figure, three-book deal, so I’m going to have to retire my nom de plume, which is fine, as the TV deal is off, my publisher has dropped the option for my next novel, and my agent ran off with my last publicist. Currently number eight on the wait list for a barista position at my local Starbucks. Out of Oxy.
Questioning all my life choices,
Great news! My publisher called back: Apparently, I’m an Internet sensation? The video of me falling off the wheel on Mika XL’s show went viral. Over two million views and climbing. They’ve asked me to write a book about it.
I was sixteen and in love for the first time.
After months of heated groping, my high school boyfriend and I wanted to go all the way. If there was anything I was sure about at sixteen, it was that I had no desire to be a high school mom. That meant birth control. That meant the most effective birth control I could imagine, something so effective it seemed made of unicorn tears and elf magic, forged in the fires of Mordor, and brought to me on the back of an armored Griffin who also happened to know a lot about prophylactics. That meant the Holy Hand Grenade: The Pill.
But getting my teenaged hands on The Pill felt like a fantastical quest of Tolkien-like proportions: Where? How? With what magical aid?
Growing up in a small, conservative, Texas town, my options for sex education were limited. I sure as hell couldn’t go to my family doctor who’d been bandaging my boo-boos since I was ten. And while I had fairly liberal parents, my mother’s moral messaging about premarital sex had always been quite clear: You only have sex with your husband. Anything else is a sin. There was no way I could ask her about any of this. Plus, I’d had to quit my afterschool job due to track and cheerleading duties. I had no money. Even if I could find birth control, how could I possibly afford it?
There was only one place I could turn to for help: Planned Parenthood.
On a summer Saturday, I lied to my mother about going to the movies with my best friend and drove instead to Planned Parenthood, which was located, ironically, next to our town’s only Catholic church. I was nervous about being seen. Slut-shaming has been a thing since the dawn of time, and I feel reasonably sure that some of the first cave drawings were the equivalent of “Yo, Cro-Magnon Woman is Easy, Y’all!” beside a sketch of roaming buffalo and a large, squirting penis. This is what it is to walk around female—to feel always that your body is not quite your own. That it belongs to a system that alternately wants to desire and objectify it, to harm it, and to blame and shame it for being so desirable and objectified that it thus causes the state of wanting to harm, blame, and shame it. Lather, rinse, repeat. After driving around the block several times, I finally pulled into the lot, parked my car behind the cover of a dumpster, and went in.
Here’s what happened: A very nice lady welcomed me and explained that, in order to obtain birth control without parental consent, I would need a proper sex education course. This was not a drive-through; this was an five hours’ worth of classes. Nervously, I said “okay,” and signed the consent form.
That afternoon, I sat with a handful of other young women as we watched films about our bodies and how those bodies worked. I’m pretty sure we saw a film on birth, too, and I’m pretty sure I equated it to “Alien,” my only frame of reference then, and thought, “Oh, HELL’S no. Not up for that yet.” A nurse gave a seminar about reproduction, pregnancy, preventing pregnancy, STDs, and the various methods of birth control available to us, listing the pros and cons of each. I was given a full gynecological exam to make sure I was healthy, and I was informed of what this exam entailed and why. The nurse was gentle, informative, and reassuring. Then, I sat with another nurse who explained how my birth control pills worked, stressing the importance of taking them every day, letting me know that it would take a full month and another menstrual cycle before they were fully “operational.” There, in the privacy of her office, I could ask all sorts of questions without shame, questions about birth control, my body, and sex. Again, without shame or judgment, I could have those questions answered knowledgeably. I didn’t have to rely on sketchy second-hand information from a teen friend of a friend whose cousin’s older sister swore that if you douched with vinegar right after sex, you couldn’t get pregnant. (Spoiler alert: That’s bananas. Also, your lady parts will smell like an Olive Garden salad. Just sayin’.)
When I left, with five months’ worth of birth control pills in a brown bag, I was relieved and empowered. I felt like an adult—like a woman driving her own body for the first time. The choice was mine and mine alone. I was responsible for my choice and my body, and I liked that very much. I had gone in like a young Frodo and left like Gandalf. Boo-ya, bitches.
In the end, the choice I made was not to have sex. I wasn’t ready yet. And, in a way, those hours spent in the company of those wise women at Planned Parenthood helped me to understand that I wasn’t ready. I remain grateful for the invaluable information Planned Parenthood provided me as a young woman in need of answers about something as fundamental as her own body.
Today, and all days, I stand with Planned Parenthood. I stand FOR women’s health—for the health of ALL women, especially low-income and young women. I stand FOR women being able to be educated about their bodies, and their sexual and reproductive choices, in private, without fear of being shamed or traumatized or physically assaulted outside a clinic. But I especially stand for the idea of women owning their bodies. Of not being denied the choices that fall to men by default.
I stand with Planned Parenthood because, once upon a time when I needed it very much, they stood by me.
VENUE CHANGE, YOU MUST LET THE PEOPLE KNOW.
Hey, campers! Sorry for the late notice, but we’ve got a venue change for the LAIR OF DREAMS launch event with special guest Chuck Wendig on Tuesday, 8/25. Due to some technical requirements for the musical portion of the evening, the party will now be held at The Bell House in happening Gowanus, Brooklyn.
NO TICKETS NECESSARY! THIS IS A FREE EVENT! AN ALL AGES SHOW! BRING YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY! BRING YOUR ENEMIES! ALL ARE WELCOME!
Books will be for sale there at The Bell House from BOOKS OF WONDER. I will sign them all! Chuck will sign all of his books! Hell, we’ll sign ANYTHING!
Here’s all the deets:
What: LAIR OF DREAMS EVENT with Libba Bray & Chuck Wendig (ZEROES) and the musical stylings of the Full Flask Players!
Where: The Bell House, 149 7th Street, between 2nd & 3rd Avenues, Gowanus, Brooklyn http://www.thebellhouseny.com/
When: Tuesday, 8/25, 7 PM — SAME BAT TIME AS BEFORE!
How to Get There: Take the F or the R train to the 4th Avenue/9th Street stop in Brooklyn. FYI: You can take just about any train to Atlantic-Barclays and change over to the R train for two stops. Easy peasy.
If you’re over 21, there’s a cash bar. If you’re under 21, there are colorful wristbands and an array of soft drinks.
Please help SPREAD THE WORD! Tweet it. Facebook it. Text it. YouTube it. Make it into a sonnet. Turn it into LAIR OF DREAMS party puppetry. Use it to ask out that person you’ve been meaning to ask out but haven’t yet because you needed an opener first, like, “Hey, would you like to go see two insane people at The Bell House talking books and singing weird, 1920s medleys?” Whatever you like. Much appreciated.
So put on your glad rags, grab your friends (in a polite way, of course), and come out to Brooklyn to play. It’ll be a swell time. See you there!
Well, hello there.
Greetings from the LAIR OF DREAMS compound where Charley the Wonder Llama and I are hard at work, readying a pre-order campaign for DIVINERS 2: LAIR OF DREAMS. Or, as we call it: DIVINERS #2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO.
LAIR OF DREAMS drops on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015, a day that, I believe, has now been declared a national holiday. (Pretty sure they’re handing out free creepy that day.) You can certainly buy the book on 8/25. Or anytime after that. All good. Don’t let The Man tell you how to enjoy your book purchases. You be you.
BUUUUT…if you pre-order LAIR OF DREAMS in the next few weeks, YOU WILL LIVE AS GODS LIVE!
To be clear, in this instance, “You will live as gods live” = special swag.
“What kind of swag, Libba? Tell us! Tell us before we click the links! We have enough to worry about without pre-order uncertainty added in, dammit!”
Of course. Of course I will tell you. Not a problem–I’m a classic oversharer. I promise it will not be a Ziploc baggie filled with my discarded dental floss and affirmations scribbled on gum wrappers–“Dance as if no one’s watching. Except for Clyde and Bonnie from the NSA.” No. There will be buttons. And temporary tattoos. And signed bookplates. Special things! And each pre-order will be personally cuddled and told that it is the most special pre-order of all…except for all of the other pre-orders. For your pre-orders, I will whisper things that only the doves know.
Some truly wonderful independent bookstores have all agreed to make this happen. They are amazing temples of awesome run by lovely, lovely people. Please show them the love:
6428 S McClintock Dr
Children’s Book World
17 Haverford Station Rd
Haverford, PA 19401
1511 1550 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84105
52 Prince Street
Politics and Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
5943 Balboa Ave
San Deigo, CA 92111
Hillsboro Shopping Center
3900 Hillsboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37215
So there you have it. These store links are live and waiting for YOU! I have to return to Charley now or else he’ll leave something in the swag bag that no one wants. (He’s a bitter, bitter llama. An unfortunate alpaca incident. We don’t discuss it.)
Please visit the Events & Appearances page on my website, http://www.libbabray.com, to see if I’m coming to a bookstore/library/school/festival near you.
Thanks for playing.
Last night, ugliness again crept into the Twittersphere, it seems. This time, some terrible, spurious claims were made against John Green. I’m not going to link to the comments here. No doubt, you can Google them. But they were hateful enough and awful enough and WRONG enough that I felt compelled to say something this morning.
This has become, sadly, a familiar scenario where social media is concerned. There’s so much that’s terrific about the Internet: It can provide context and community. It can give visibility to those who have been marginalized. It can be an agent of social change. It can be a place for innovation and discovery. It can help kids sorting out their identities feel validated. All of this is amazing stuff.
But the Internet can also be a very ugly place, the equivalent of the worst middle school cafeteria ever—everybody camped at their tables waiting for somebody to throw the first carton of milk and the food fight to be on while people crowd around yelling, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” What was said about John was not just mean-spirited and, again, WRONG. It was damaging—and libelous. It’s actually actionable.
A long time ago, I heard someone say something I’ve never forgotten: “I choose not to define myself by the people and things I pan.” These are wise words. This is not to say that we cannot be critical or questioning. Those are necessary parts of dialogue. But we should also be thoughtful and reflective. We should examine our own motives. There is a performative aspect to the Internet that often tempts us into saying or doing things just for the hits. Dude, I’ve been there. Sometimes that’s just an innocuous, “Hey, wanna watch me down three Mountain Dews and burp out the alphabet?” But other times, it can be about taking something or somebody down or joining in when there’s a school yard pounding going on. Except in this case, the schoolyard has millions in it.
The thing is, when such constant corrosive atmosphere is maintained, it’s not just bad for the targets of that hate—John Green, Cassandra Clare, Maggie Stiefvater, etc. etc.—it’s bad for the propagators of that hate, too. It’s bad for everybody watching and listening. It’s desensitizing. To indulge in such hatred is an act of character assassination but it’s also an act of self-harm. I know that sounds like something you’d find on an inspirational cat poster, but it’s true. It’s like Hoovering up an entire bag of Doritos and washing it down with a Big Gulp. It seems delicious at the time, but later, it feels really gross, and you wish you hadn’t done it.
Today, I’m thinking about the wise words of one of my favorite writers, George Saunders, made during his commencement address at Syracuse University in which he reflects on the necessity for kindness not just for the world but for ourselves. I urge you to read it when you have a moment. http://tinyurl.com/qaaqehy
But one of my favorite parts is Saunders paraphrasing the poet Hayden Carruth who, in his beautiful late-life poem, “Testament”, says this: “Now I am almost entirely love.”
It’s a good thing to aspire to. For love is thoughtful and kind. It is corrective and honest, but never mean. And so, in that spirit, I’d like to offer an incomplete list of things I love about John Green:
Truth: I freaking love John Green, unabashedly. He’s a pretty exceptional human being who delights and inspires in equal measure. I’m glad he’s in the world. Please don’t make him reconsider doing all that he does. Today, err toward love.
Dear Lovely-and-Patient Readers,
Many of you have been asking, “Hey Libba—when is the second Diviners book, LAIR OF DREAMS, coming out? It’s been moved on the schedule so many times we have lost faith in the old gods of the book pub-scheduling universe. We have stopped leaving small plates of cheese before their effigies. We no longer sing the playful songs of patient waiting, songs taught to us by our sequel-anticipating ancestors as they camped on the shores of Robert Jordan/George R.R. Martin-land. Madness reigns, Libba! Blood and chaos in the streets! Twinkie shortages! We look into each other’s eyes, wordless, lost, for what can be said when you promised us a book in April of LAST YEAR and have managed to blow through every date since? For the love of all that’s holy, will you please stop messing with us?!”
Gentle readers, I hear you. I am sorry. I thank you for bearing with me, for being so understanding, and out of a sense of undying gratitude, I want to give you all the things made with butter: “You deserve a book from me, my plucky darlings. But in the meantime, here—have a Butter Pop™ on a stick. Also, the number for a cardiologist. Regrets are for the weak.”
So here’s the good news upfront: It is finished.
No way! You cry from the streets where you have begun to set small fires and tell the rats about a story called THE DIVINERS which was started long, long ago—so long ago, you have forgotten how heavy the book was in your hands. The muscles of your arms have now atrophied.
Way, I whisper, as I fly by on roller skates, tossing glitter across a blighted landscape. (I am dressed in elaborate layers of seafoam-green chiffon while I roll by, because I know how to make an entrance.) Pump some iron and ready your arm strength, my doves, because that sucker is in copyedits as I type this. And, barring some nightmarish apocalyptic scenario that sees us all drinking our urine to survive while trapped in an abandoned amusement park run by mutant clowns, come August, LAIR OF DREAMS will be a real, live book with an actual beginning, middle, and end…ish which you can find in bookstores across America—nay, the world. Even Canada. Hooray! Take up the Eddas once more! Tell the rats I come anon; your sacrificial plates of cheese have been answered.
I wish the writing had gone faster. This book has been quite a crucible. And the truth is that writers are people, and people have lives that are, at times, less than convenient, and, at other times, downright bothersome. Sometimes, there are trials to be gotten through. At those times, all we can do is hunker down and wait for the dust storms to pass so that we can see clearly enough to do our work.
We keep at it. We keep trying. Listening. Thinking. Considering. Reconsidering. We write what we can and edit what seems false as it occurs to us, which sometimes isn’t until much later. We try to be as conscious as possible.
Ask the rats. They’ll tell you.
It’s been a long, tough haul. Thank you for your patience, faith, and cheering. I appreciate it more than you know. And I really hope you’ll enjoy LAIR OF DREAMS when it comes out IN AUGUST. FOR SURE. Unless apocalypse-mutant-clown-urine-smoothie scenario.
More fun things to come as we countdown to August! Stay tuned. And enjoy the Butter Pops.
All the best,
 The book, that is. I have not become Jesus.
 By “blighted landscape” I mean the ruin my house has become whilst I was engaged in the writing. (Also, it is unacceptable that I just used “whilst.” I am not British. This is pretentious and should not be excused.)
 Or, you know, whatever happens in your post-apocalyptic fantasy world.
 Fun fact: This book has had approximately SEVEN different opening chapters. Isn’t that DELIGHTFUL? Ha! Hahahaha! I LOVE COUNTING! IS FUN GAME! Where is my morphine? Has anyone seen my morphine?
 100% true: Canadians are so nice they will let you stay in their houses and eat all their snacks and dry pasta for free! Or maybe those guys were just too embarrassed to say, “No, really, this is not the bookstore. You are in the wrong place.” It is weird that they don’t return my emails.
 Except for David Levithan, who has many clones. Otherwise, how could he do everything? I ask you.