May 26, 2005

H. Baum

Excellent. Thanks again for the input. I went with B. Majority doesn't rule here I guess. The book’s finished and I’m getting sent a sample copy to see how everything turned out, including a preliminary author photo taken today in our garage:


That’s what I look like. Book should be here in a week.

May 25, 2005

Last Vote

Thanks a lot for the help on the cover. I’m not much of a graphic designer. One last question. Exhibit A or B or C? Not much difference but I have to choose one. There is no "none of the above" choice. This is what I’ve got. I keep going back and forth.


May 23, 2005

More NOS Covers


Four more covers. Vote for your favorite. If you’re wondering, the novel has to do with vanity plates.

NOS Cover

So I can't use Photoshop. Basically, I was guessing so I kept it simple. I actually designed this cover years ago, as if I had some premonition that I'd need to use it. The book's out to one last place and then I'm publishing it myself. If anyone out there is an expert with Photoshop with free time, please feel free. And I do mean "free" because I can't really afford anything.

Go Figure

Now I’m excited about self-publishing my novel. I spent the weekend investigating self-publishing, designing the innards of my novel as well as the cover. I suck at Photoshop so the cover is very spare. In an ultra-secret private correspondence, Empty Drum wrote to me how these are great times to be an artist. There’s no reason to wait around to be published or discovered, artists can do everything themselves. Made me feel better about the prospect of publishing myself.

I’m thinking about publishing with Amazingly, they’re free. You just upload the guts and the cover of the book and they charge you by each book you order. You can order only one book and you don’t even have to make the book public. It’s a great service. No professional binder will let you order just one or two books. Most other self-publishers charge at least $500 and from what I gather the books look about the same. I’m going to get one book from Lulu and see how it turns out. My friend has a novel called The Spoon on Xlibris. Looks like a real book to me. I stole many of the elements of his book to design my own. A good read too so buy it.

I’m sure there’s a lot of embarrassing writing on Lulu. Just like blogs, anyone can do it, so you have to sift through a lot to get to decent writing. I haven’t read my novel in a while so I don’t know how it reads these days. It might lend itself to self-publishing than other novels I’ve written because it reads quickly, so some say. Lulu might be to publishing what blogging is to journalism: a very interesting development and the jury’s still out about where it’s going to lead.

This blog has enough readers so maybe one or two people will buy the novel. I know some people who run a magazine in L.A. (The L.A. Innuendo), maybe they could review it. I’ll at least have something I can give to people I meet. Without self-publishing, I wouldn’t be able to say these things. It would have been another novel laying lifelessly on the shelf. I’m looking forward to getting a book out there. I wonder what took me so long. I was just hoping that I’d finally get that magical publishing deal. Instead, I have to do everything myself. Story of my life.

May 19, 2005

The Author

My friend recently wrote me and asked how I was doing because I don’t always cover it on Ash Tree. It’s true. I don’t write a lot about my marriage, about being a father, my relationship with my parents, brother, and the city of L.A.--things that I deal with very often. In some ways, I don’t get all that personal here. My moods are often redundant so there’s no real reason to repeat how I’ve been feeling.

Lately, I’ve been down. Maybe it’s post-partem depression after finishing a story and I’ve got to face what’s in front of me. I’ve been thinking about self-publishing my novel "North of Sunset" and that is depressing to me. One might think that all I think about is writing and publishing, and that’s almost true. I’m obsessed with putting books out, getting read, and it’s not happening. I'm not sure who the audience is for the fiction I write. See, I’ve already said as much on this blog which is why I haven’t been repeating it.

So I’m looking into self-publishing. I’m looking into Xlibris and Print on demand places. It makes me feel more than a little pathetic, but I’ve got to get another book out there. DH Lawrence did it, I think, and other major writers who couldn’t get a break, so I can justify it that way. If ten people read the novel it’s better than no one. Something good could come from getting the book published in some form. I need to put out another representative of myself besides Oscar Caliber Gun/The Golden Calf which was basically written when I was a teenager.

This is all premature really because I already have two things being published this year. I keep thinking, I’ll believe it when I see it. I was fretting about the money from the French publisher like I’d never get it. I thought it might be wired to somebody else’s bank account by mistake or some other problem. Such is my faith in my luck. But these two pieces could be exciting and lead to other things.

I am projecting other anxieties onto publishing, no doubt. It’s been a while since one of these morose posts so I thought I’d dive in again. I need to lighten things up a bit. Here’s the blue author:


May 18, 2005

Britney Spears TV Show

Here’s a test of Google marketing, except maybe I’m going to bring in a lot of Britney Spears’ fans. Somehow I’m in the top ten for Beck and Scientology. Which is cool, really--hey you, click on the mp3 links on the right. Saw some of the Britney Spears documentary show last night which was entertaining. I like anything that reveals celebrities to be demented regular people.

One of the most revealing things I’ve seen was a Rosie O’Donnell show where she went backstage with Britney Spears. Disclaimer: this was one of the only times I watched the Rosie O’Donnell show. At one point Britney Spears said, "You know, sometimes I just have to be alone."

Rosie O’Donnell said, "Really? I find it hard to be completely alone."

"Oh, I’m never completely alone. There’s always someone there."

The show was a lot of years ago but it stuck with me as a good example of celebrity weirdness.


I’ve submitted the new story to: Land Grant, McSweeney’s, Identitytheory, Watchword, Paris Review, Zyzzyva, Open City, & Word Riot.

A few others on the horizon. Recently, someone from the Land Grant College Review wrote to me and asked if I would like a complimentary copy of their next issue. She found me through this blog. Very cool, the first 3-dimensional object I’ll have received through blogging. Currently, my paypal account resides at zero.

The story had gotten to the point where I didn’t know if it was any good anymore and I was tired of working on it. I want to work on something else. I could sit on the story for a couple months or send it out. I’m more curious to see what sort of response it gets. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, I don’t know. I had put the story on the shelf because it was too much like a bad Raymond Carver story--I had been reading a lot of Raymond Carver at the time. It’s been a while since that fixation and I’ve forgotten exactly what I was ripping off so I hope it’s become my own thing. Very spare so I don’t know what people will make of it. If I don’t get it published, maybe I’ll just make a separate blog out of it.

Last Sunday, I met my first blogger: Martha O’Connor who was having a reading at the local Barnes and Noble to promote her novel, The Bitch Posse. I’d already seen her author photo so I knew what she looked like. But it was the first time someone saw me. One of these days I’ll put up a picture but I’m camera-phobic so pictures of me are rare. I was sort of nervous going to the reading but it was a nice time. She’s a pro--telling her story, reading from the book, answering questions. I got a signed copy but I haven’t started it yet because my wife stole it from me.

In other news, my daughter went to the bathroom on the potty for the first time on Monday. I am almost free of changing diapers.

May 16, 2005

Greeting Cards

My local post office is like a page out of a Dan Clowes comic: many mutants. I was there this afternoon mailing out a new story and had a strangely fucked up experience. A woman asked me to write out some greeting cards she was sending. "I can’t spell," she said. "My brother’s in prison and his wife put him there." She was squat, twenties, wearing a tank top, jeans, and she smelled strongly of cheap soap. It didn’t occur to me till afterward that she was probably illiterate.

I stood with her and wrote out the three long cards she was sending to her brother. "Jesus loves you, just stick to your plan and you’ll be out before you know it, it’s not so much better out here, be good to yourself, we all love you," and other things like that. One thing she dictated was made for me, as if I’d written it myself, "Stay away from the Hollywood people. They’ll never do you right and they’re all phony. I’m going to find a new crowd myself."

My hand was getting cramped and tired from trying to write legibly. I didn’t know if anyone could read it but me. I’ve got shitty writing, but I was trying. I don’t think she could tell the difference. An older woman peeked in--bleached blond, huge ass, huge breasts. "How you doing here?" she asked, then walked away. On the third card, the girl told me to write, "Tell me if you want me and the girls to pay your wife a visit. Just tell me and I’ll do what it takes. I want to see her beautiful face and eyes. If you don’t get back to me I’m going to go by my own rules."

It was pretty obvious that she was asking him if she could go fuck with his wife who had put him in jail, but was speaking in a kind of code so it couldn’t come back to her. I realized later that she might have gotten me to write the letter so it couldn’t be traced to her. The other two cards she asked me to sign, "Love, your sister" but the third card just ended with "Be strong." Either this was a smart move or wouldn’t make any difference.

"If I had any money, I’d pay you," she said when I was done. "May God bless your family." I told her, "Good luck."

I was excited when I got back and told my wife about it. The whole thing sounded like a dream I might invent. Then I started to feel bad and really kind of sick about it: I might have helped an innocent woman get beat up or worse. I felt like I had done something criminal. At the time I was just doing this strange favor for someone at the post office. It was one of those moments that feels like fiction while you’re living it, few and far between. How often does an illiterate woman ask you to take dictation for a letter to her brother in prison? It was tragic and fascinating at the same time.

While it was happening, I was thinking, hey, I can blog this! I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing. Probably good. In the past, something like this might happen and I’d forget about it, I wouldn’t document it. I’d keep it with me but I’d forget the details. But it’s strange to be living my life and thinking how I’m going to represent it online. I’m not an autobiographical writer so it's good to have a direct record of these things. Whatever the case, my new short story has had a mighty strange send-off.

May 13, 2005

Ugly Town

My novel got rejected by Ugly Town. Somebody tell me a joke.

Tristan Egolf


Found out today that Tristan Egolf killed himself. Read about it: here. I read his novel Lord of the Barnyard. I have to admit I didn’t completely like it. I probably shouldn’t offer criticism when commemorating someone, but it wouldn’t be the first time that an opinion was ill placed. Whatever, it’s true. It’s in the Pynchon vain, which is not my thing. It's more Pynchon than Charles Bukowski. I didn’t love the book, but I respected the ambition, the place it came from. I was drawn to the book somehow. New underground writer on the rise. He was discovered in Paris and then published by Grove Press, lord of all publishers, so there might have been jealousy in my reading of the book.

I remember him talking about the novel on the Leonard Lopate show when I lived in New York. He mentioned how when he wrote the book, he was dead while he wrote it. His suicide puts this into a different perspective, but at the time I thought, Yeah. I had just finished writing a novel and I was kind of dead to the world while I was writing it. His sentiment stuck with me--that interview was probably seven or eight years ago. It felt good to hear it from someone else’s mouth, especially a writer who was my age and successful.

I think I’ll pick up Lord of the Barnyard again this weekend.

May 12, 2005



I am not related to L. Frank Baum. I wish I could say I am but I’m not. I am related to Friedrich Gustav Jacob Henle, discoverer of the Henle’s Loops which are in everybody’s kidneys. I’m also related to Artemas Ward who commanded the troops at Bunker Hill and was a Congressman. I think this entitles me to enlistment in the Illuminati. He comes from my Dad’s mom’s gentile side of the family. He has nothing to do with the 19th century satirist of the same name who used it as a pen name and I guess took it from General Artemas Ward--a kind of satirical character who my grandfather said weighed 400 pounds and had to be carried into battle. If he was so heavy, how did they carry him? I don’t know, but my grandfather likes to tell this story over and over again. I’m also related to a man who was on the team at GE who invented Silly Putty. Finally, I’m related to a guy who didn’t trust banks so he kept his life savings in the closet, thousands of dollars. One night, he was robbed of everything. It made the Newark, NJ papers.

May 10, 2005

Hachette Littératures

Holy Frog, I finally received payment for the French edition of my novel The Golden Calf from the publisher Hachette Littératures. I have been waiting months for this. It’s been a crazy long time, filling out French tax forms, receiving correspondence from the publisher in French which I could not read and would have to get translated. All the while hurting deeply for money. It’s not a windfall by any means, but now I feel like I can go out and buy a burrito or a CD without feeling like I am taking food out of my daughter’s mouth. Something to know about me: burritos are the ultimate food. And dark chocolate is the superior chocolate. I am going to go celebrate.


I am busy, here’s a quiz, which I took from Darling Maggot’s site. He’s 100% Satanist, which is insane. I think you have to be careful of the question asking if there should be any restrictions on sexuality because this can also mean sex with children. I read a lot about Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan at one point. Interesting, sort of a relic. I read a stupid number of books for the religious cult novel. I’m a Buddhist, though my jury’s still out on reincarnation.

You scored as Buddhism. Your beliefs most closely resemble those of Buddhism. Do more research on Buddhism and possibly consider becoming Buddhist, if you are not already.

In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that base the Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration. In Buddhism, there is no hierarchy, nor caste system; the Buddha taught that one's spiritual worth is not based on birth.

Buddhism 71%
Hinduism 71%
Agnosticism 63%
Paganism 58%
Islam 54%
Satanism 50%
Atheism 46%
Judaism 33%
Christianity 25%

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with

May 9, 2005

David Byrne

This weekend I read:


Enjoyed it. To be a successful band the members have to treat the band like it’s a religion. Also discovered that David Byrne has an online journal, which he doesn’t want to call a blog for some reason.

May 5, 2005

Fight Club

This past weekend I watched "Fight Club" for the first time since it came out. When I first saw it, it bothered the shit out of me--almost as much as "Attack of the Clones." If I had a blog at the time, I would have written pages about those movies. Stupid to get so worked up but that’s what I do. I doubt if I’ll go see "Revenge of the Sith."

Part of the reason I got so annoyed with "Fight Club" was jealousy. I had just finished writing a novel about a revolutionary cult--it’s the reason I read a lot about Scientology (see last post) as well as other cults. Cults in our Midst is an interesting read. It’s an expose on cults which also reads like a manual on how to run a cult and brainwash people. Part of the problem with that novel is that it was too much a reflection of the non-fiction I had been reading. So…when I saw the revolutionary cult in "Fight Club" I got jealous and mad.

This was partly because the movie seemed like a Hitler Youth propaganda film, cloaked in productive ideas like anti-materialism. That seemed kind of dangerous to me--the hyper masculinity. I still don’t know what people mean when they say they "love" the movie. Brad Pitt’s character, the blonde alternative Uber-Mensch, is a nightmare. Free spirited, maybe, but nothing to aspire to. Maybe people aspire to that kind of anarchy, the ability to do whatever you want to do. It’s Nihilism without the philosophy: dangerous. I get the sense that people want to be in the fascistic militant group. I’ve never read the novel but I imagine it’s saying that this is what we’ve been driven to, not this is where we should go. The movie seems to celebrate violence.

The movie didn’t bother me nearly as much as it once did. Actually, I kind of liked it. It was nice to see a big Hollywood movie which had some relation to human conflict. I love science fiction movies, but CGI movies like "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," "Gladiator" and whatever else are kind of dead and impersonal. It’s weird that "Fight Club," a movie that I hated, could make 90s movies seem like a renaissance.

Also, "Fight Club" has a surprise ending way before "The Sixth Sense" but "The Sixth Sense" gets all the credit for it. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, this post isn’t very interesting.

May 3, 2005

Beck Hansen

So Beck is a Scientologist. Maybe I’m incredibly late coming to information like this, but it’s new to me. This article comes from a virulently anti-Scientology site and it makes Beck sound like a serial killer, but there is still something disappointing about it and maybe not that surprising.

Let me just say that I love Beck’s songwriting. But I don’t put it on all the time because I also feel there’s something sort of mechanical about it. Very damn clever and good but also kind of unemotional. I liked his record "Sea Change" which tried to be very emotional, but he seemed to be acting the part of a depressive, as if saying, this is my dark record. I remember listening to "Mutations" around the time I saw Todd Haynes’ "Velvet Goldmine" about the fake David Bowie character--and the record seemed like a soundtrack to a movie about a fake pop star, not entirely real. He even sings with a fake British accent. So do Guided By Voices, but it’s different somehow. That’s a whole lot of criticism about a songwriter who I like and respect. In some ways, he’s the best thing going, which is why I'm inspired to write this. I’m not saying that Beck’s lack of emotion is tied into Scientology. Or maybe I am, I don’t know.

I’ve read a lot about Scientology: L. Ron Hubbard Messiah or Madman which exposes Scientology as using a lot of torture tactics--putting people in basements until they "believe"--like any cult. It’s a demented non-religion. It really does seem like the work of a science fiction author. Here’s a random slice of Dianetics: "Any ally computation may have included the loss of the ally. And the loss of the ally may be the trigger which will start chain fission. For what we are going to try to do is blow off or discharge as many life force units as possible from the reactive engram bank and weaken it…" (p. 300) Dianetics is just pages and pages of this stuff. Like a lot of cult speak, it twists up your mind in such a way that you don’t know what’s true anymore.

At first I thought Beck was pulling a Bob Dylan. Dylan became a born again Christian at some point. Burroughs tried Scientology as well--but then, he tried everything. But apparently, it’s deeper rooted than that. Part of me wants to think that’s it’s OK if it helps with someone’s personal growth, especially if he was raised with it, but Scientology bothers me.

There does seem something cultish about it. I looked up the Beck/Scientology connection and came across this: "The drug-rehabilitation programs have the highest success rate of any in the world. If you actually look at the things that have come out of it, it kind of blows away this kind of criticism."

In an interview about "War of the Worlds" Tom Cruise said this: "I'm a helper. For instance, I myself have helped hundreds of people get off drugs. In Scientology, we have the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. It's called Narconon."

That sounds awfully close to indoctrination. It sounds like something they were told to say. It’s really kind of sad and depressing. "The only successful drug rehabilitation program"??? This man has been programmed. Never mind that Tom Cruise is a megalomaniacal weirdo. Although, he probably has healed hundreds of people. Millions of people adore him and will listen to anything he says: it has to make you start feeling like a Christ figure. I wrote about this in my novel "North of Sunset"--a celebrity who so devoutly believes in his elevation above the human race that he starts killing people. He gets addicted to the power of celebrity and needs to go to the next level. Interesting, IF ONLY IT WOULD GET PUBLISHED. Anyway.

This all started with a post about handjobs from Violet Blue (nsfw). All right, enough links.

May 2, 2005


I have something on the horizon and I can’t really think about anything else. I want it to be here already. I can’t say much about what it is except it will get George Bush fired.

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