Monday, July 28, 2014

Dream On

We are headed out to Colorado to see Noah's baby sister get married. She was seven years old when I met her, which is how old Indy is now, which will really mess with me if I let it. I have packed a hippie maxi dress from Target and a maxi skirt, also Target. I have a red dress with white polka dots to wear to the wedding, a 40's style shirtdress that isn't quite fancy enough for a wedding but it's what I got. I will bring a pair of jeans and a second maxi skirt from a boutique in California. I will bring a couple kimonos even though it will be too hot to wear them. I will not pack my turquoise ring, because Indy lost it, and I have started calling it 'my precious' as I wonder around the house again and again, hoping that maybe this time it will turn up. I adored that turquoise ring like little else. To my own disdain, I have capitulated and ordered a copy of prominent daddy blogger Karl Ove Knausgaard's MY STRUGGLE, which I will take on the plane, along with my iphone and its playlist of songs by Charlie XCX and Bleachers and Springsteen. In my purse will be one Kind bar, Burt's Bees chapstick, and Dramamine. Noah and I are taking different planes for complicated reasons, so as soon as I am in my seat I will put my earbuds in, signifying LEAVE ME ALONE. I might even board the plane wearing them. Last time a guy tried to get chatty with me during boarding and then I had to be cold, which makes me guilty, which pretty much describes my every social interaction ever.

At the airport I will buy a copy of the New Yorker, because I can't get one here in town. Other things I can't get in town are 1) a good burrito, 2) a good smoothie and 3) anonymity.

The other night I dreamed 88 people had reviewed Angel Food on Amazon, and my dream-brain was like, see, I knew I didn't have to worry. I also dreamed a prominent mommy blogger plugged my book on her Facebook page and I took a screenshot of it and probably cried.

I feel very vulnerable about it all.

I should have left for work three minutes ago. Instead I am hunched at my desk drinking coffee out of the mug pictured above, a gift I treasure like a turquoise ring.

Dream on.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Angel In The Room

When I decided to go the Indie-pub route with Angel Food, I wasn't sure what I would do about the cover. My dad's an artist, so he came up with a few sketches. The one above has been put through the Sierra filter on Instagram--for some reason I can't find the original--and was pretty much a perfect representation of what I had in mind. I really wanted there to be an Airstream--because I love them, because they are so popular, so lovely and shiny, and because the characters of ANGEL FOOD live in one. Then, just messsing around, my dad did a couple other sketches. I don't know if he'd want me to share these with you, because he's an artist and these are just rough etchings, but I'm going to anyway. (Sorry Dad!)

You can see these were rough drawings, but I am especially fond of the second one. It's the first visual representation I've seen of Isidore that's not inside my brain, and I think she looks pretty awesome.

I adored my dad's work. But the cover needed to be digitally rendered, and that's not his thing. So we turned to Noah's sister Mercy and her husband, Trey. Mercy and Trey live in Portland where they make beautiful things, mainly baked goods at the bakery they work at together, and beautiful music from Trey's band. It is my understanding that they're going to be launching a freelance web design business. There are a million great pictures of them, but I only chose two. One where you can see how cute they are, and the second so you can see all their tattoos.

Don't they look like creative people? For the cover, Trey first did exactly what I asked him to, which was this:

I loved this cover. It made total sense to me. But one of my early readers pointed out that this cover made her expect a horror novel, which Angel Food is not. It didn't incorporate any of the humorous elements. Or the road trip motif. So I let Trey do his thing, and he came up with the version that became the official cover.

Perfect. It looks even better in real life. It makes a beautiful blue book (I'm always drawn to blue books) and does a much better job of representing the tone. I'm so proud of what Trey did. I was nervous opening the package to see my book for the first time. Scared that it would look like amateur hour up in here. I was thrilled to see a very attractive and eye-catching (if I do say so myself) book looking back at me. It was a moment I won't forget.

Self-publishing is hard, and scary. The benefit is that you get to be in charge of everything, but the downside, of course, is that you are in charge of everything. Going through the book last night I found an error here or there. I can't for the life of me understand why, as I went over the entire book maybe 20 times over the course of two years. But I do understand why--I'm human. I was working without a professional editor. Mistakes are going to happen. There aren't too many, and I'm hoping most people won't notice them. If they do, I'm hoping they will forgive me. When I see an error in a book, I wonder: how did they not notice that?! But now I understand. Because I went over the book 20 times and things still snuck past me.


The book is out as it wanted to be out, and that is a big step and this is an emotional day. Allow me to share a couple more things here. I have to promote myself because I don't have promoters! And then we will be back to observations on Russian cabdrivers as microcosms of the entire human race.

Marie at The (Not Always) Lazy W has already managed to get up a review. Marie is always a delight to read, but here is a sample from her lovely (and honest) review:

Brittany crafts these incredible scenes. These bloody, violent, highly sexual, emotionally charged and laugh-out-loud funny scenes, the likes of which I have never read before. Do you know how some chefs have a knack for striking bizarre flavor combinations, but it works? It is suddenly the most wonderful thing that has ever touched your tongue? That. She does this with characters, dialogue, and surprise events. She folds together one element with another in ways that leave you shaking your head and wanting so much more.

Thank you, Marie! And thanks to all of you! I have been so moved by your encouragement along the way. That goes for every single one of you. I am so honored to be a part of this amazing community of writers and people, all of you so talented and inspiring in your own ways. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I might never have done this without you all. (I would never bribe a child or a reader, but some of you might find your name in the acknowledgments.)

So I want to end with this passage my dad wrote. He is calling it a 'liner note' for Angel Food. But I like to think of it as Angel Food's first fan fiction. I was afraid my parents would hate this book. My dad reads The New Yorker and my mom is Lutheran and the novel flies a bit in the face of both those things. But they didn't hate it. Thanks, mom and dad!

"You think nothing is better than a road trip across the southwest. As the sun sets over the distant mesas that glow like Eldorado, and the high desert sage is softened in purple shadow, your teabag mind is steeping in distant thought, as the Airstream bus hums along. Your restless kid sister, whom you love, is finally at peace in the shotgun seat dozing with her ear buds in. Your troubled brother lounges in the back occupied with a game on his i-pad. Serenity at last.

But you're always looking over your shoulder, even when times are good. You check the mirror again. That's no semi. Your heart sinks as you catch the sweep of streamlined wings. You're transfixed as you quickly discern the flowing robes, the Apollo- like torso, the serene but stone grim face, Buddha on steroids, its strong arm aloft with a flaming sword.

You wish a cop with flashing lights was behind you. You wish the devil himself was behind you. You've dealt with evil before, but this is worse. On your tail is the very wrath of God.
You punch the cruise control switch off and you floor it!"

Thank you so much, everyone! I love you! I hope you like the book.

*The wing art in both versions of Trey's cover is by online artist Katie Litchfield. Trey added the blood.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Angel Food: FAQs

Photo by Jennifer Whitehead on flickr.

In celebration of Angel Food's release date, which is this Friday, July 25th, I am answering some frequently asked questions about the book. Without further ado: (*edited below)

1. Is Angel Food a book about cake?

No, it is not. Sorry.

2. But I get some cake if I order it, right?

Unfortunately we are unable to send you cake with your order at this time. It is summer and the cake would probably not hold up too well. Check back in December.

3. Will I like this book?

Are you one of the millions of Americans who wishes "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" was actually a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino? Then yes! You will absolutely adore this book!

4. What kind of person is this book for? Who is the audience?

This book is for people who like road trips, Airstreams, family dysfunction, books about people who eat chips and guacamole, Instagram, things that are kinda funny I guess, and stuff.

5. What are early reviewers saying about this "book"?

Perhaps my favorite early review said, "I was not embarrassed for you while reading this." Other early readers have said "This book left me craving Tex-Mex in a violent way" and "But when will I get my cake?"

6. Any reviews that are not about food?

Marie of The (Not Always) Lazy W said "Hysterical. . . oh my cheeses. I'm terrified that this is almost over". (Marie is a very eloquent writer who plans to write an actual review. This is only what she sent to me by Facebook messenger. I think she would want you to know that.) Tangledlou at Periphery said "I started reading, got hooked, and kept reading because I loved the characters and I wanted to see what happened to them, because the story was fascinating and darkly hilarious, because the writing was consistent and had enough moments of absolute brilliance to be fantastic without being tedious (writing that is brilliant at every moment becomes tedious.)" Boy, is she right! Boy, am I in no danger of that!

7. Am I going to hate this book?

Yes, probably.

8. What prompted you to "write" Angle Food?

ANGEL Food. I thought, "what if you had to spend your life on the road because something was hunting you down to kill you?" But not a monster or a bad guy, because monsters and bad guys are always trying to kill people. I wanted it to be something more surprising.

9. Originally was this book about Oprah hunting four grown siblings through the desert southwest, bent on destruction? Because that would be surprising.

Yes. Yes it was.

10. Will Angel's Fool be available as an ebook?

Please, it's ANGEL FOOD. I don't see why you'd choose to destroy civilization, but yes. In a few weeks.

11. Anything else you have to say for yourself?

Thanks for being here, all of you. I hope you will like Anglo Dude.

*12. Where the heck can I buy ANGELES FUEL you dumb-ass? is the place. Thanks for asking!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Outlawed Dance: 36 Hours In Charleston

Perhaps you think photo essays comprised of text placed obnoxiously over manipulated images are the lamest.

If so, stay away from this post.

The girls are in Colorado with their Grammy and Aunties, so Noah and I had time for a trip to Charleston. During the four hour drive, we listened to a playlist I had made the night before and that turned out to be surprisingly bittersweet. As a result, I felt like crying (to a Journey song or Springsteen) most of the way to Charleston.

A sign as you approach from the north bids you "WELCOME TO CHARLESTON" and then "ALL AMERICA CITY". Not All American but All America. This would haunt me over the next 24 hours. Are they commanding all of America to city? Or are they telling City that it's not just some of America, but all? You see why I didn't sleep well.

After a quick meal at a shit restaurant that somebody recommended to us, we drove around the historic district, the French Quarter and the Battery. I could barely breathe, it was so beautiful. I drove myself crazy acting exactly like my mother, rhapsodizing again and again at the beauty of the place, but the humidity, but the beauty. None of my pictures do any justice to the feeling of being there, all the history, the houses pressed tight each to each on cobblestoned streets. They did sing to me. I could almost feel time become relative and slip away, all the ghosts of the city's past bustling around us, just out of sight.

As for the restaurant, I had ruled it out after doing my own research. But then there it was, recommended. Try the she-crab soup, said yelp reviewers. Their mouths were watering just thinking about it, they said. Well we tried it, and we would like to bet money that the base is Campbell's Condensed Cheese soup. Sure there was crab in it (and a good bit of hard shell), but you could ruin anything by putting it in condensed cheese. Even the waiter knew it was shit. "Was everything okay?" he said as he took away half-eaten plates, unable to meet our eyes.

We did much better later, though. A silent cabdriver of vaguely Slavic origin drove us down to The Grocery off King Street. I had picked this place after reading menu after menu. Charleston's hottest places seem to be Husk and Fig, but I'm never in a hurry to visit places that are charging $30 for the same old steak, currently hip fish, and roasted quail. I'm also not a huge fan of southern food, so when a restaurant has yet again deconstructed shrimp and grits or chicken and biscuits, it's not my thing. The Grocery was a little more adventurous with its offerings, and it paid off.  The true highlight was the Piggy Plate. House-made charcuterie with toast and mustard and pickled veggies on the side. The stuff on the upper left was so incredibly flavorful I had to shut my eyes to experience it fully. I haven't had to do that since we ate at Jennifer Jasinski's Rioja in Denver, or not often since then, at least. "Tastes like Christmas," I said, and Noah, with his brewer's palate, separated from the salt and the fat the delicate flavor of cinnamon, aged, which was lending the festive flavors. The fat on the very top offering melted away on my tongue. We were in heaven. The other two hits here were the Wagyu tartare and the bone marrow brulee, two separate dishes which we ate TOGETHER and they married into a perfect union in our mouths and are probably honeymooning right now in our bellies.

(The fried oysters, which the server recommended, were less memorable but I mean, we should have known. It was fried oysters.) (I didn't sleep well that night because I was worried about the Slavic cabdriver. What if he hates his life and does he miss his family and did he hate us? I tossed and turned.)

We drove out to Folly Beach where I got 1) a sunburn and 2) rather emotional about being a Colorado girl who has set foot in the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean, not to mention the Gulf of Mexico and the Irish Sea. I adore the ocean.

Lunch in Folly was a second flub. We trusted Yelp, which I will never, ever do again. The Lost Dog Cafe was perhaps the most recommended restaurant around, with people saying things like "forget best brunch in town, this is the best brunch EVER". Well it wasn't. It was gross. I didn't finish. Next time we'll try Taco Boy instead. Noah kept calling it Taco Mac, which really would be a better name.

We found Prohibition on King Street while waiting for our Grocery dinner reservation. They were serving up really yummy cocktails by a very friendly bar staff. Noah had the Bacon Maple Old Fashioned (self explanatory) and I had the Strawberry Smash, which was Maker's Mark, fresh strawberries, mint, and lemon.

One thing that sucks about living in Brevard is that North Carolina has a ban on happiness. Oops I mean Happy Hour. Happy Hour is not allowed here, and I felt a bit like the prodigal daughter reuniting with it wholeheartedly in Charleston. This was at a place called The Macintosh, where Noah made terrible fun of me for walking in and saying to the hostess, "Do you have bacon happy hour?" I had read they did, but I wanted to be sure--I didn't want any bacon shenanigans. When I asked what had been wrong with my query, Noah informed me (good-naturedly) that "you just don't say things like that." I still don't understand what was wrong with it, but Noah teased me like this: "Hello fellow human, I am here to inquire about your pork and fermented offerings." Noah likes to say that I was meant to be a queen, or at least an aristocrat, and a hermetic one at that. Well, he is right. I have to agree with him there.

The Macintosh was another trendy place of $30 roasted quails, and I'm glad we didn't eat a full meal there, based on the soggy pork they served at bacon happy hour. (Yes. They had it.)

This picture was taken by an incredibly attractive barkeep right after I had asked DO YOU HAVE BACON HAPPY HOUR. She was wearing a collared shirt, red-and-white striped, tucked in to jeans with suspenders. It was really working for her. The barboy was cute too, but he wasn't waiting on us. She was blonde and friendly, and super hot. In the end, I will never truly be comfortable with things like eyeliner or my face, but this woman had aced the feminine arts. An absolute master. We were practically two different species. Noah said she wasn't his type (he likes redheads AHEM). I liked her and might have been her friend after I got used to looking at her face. Anyway, I asked her to take a picture, and she snapped a few. I was so self-conscious. Never before have I been so aware that I have a face. Also arms. And teeth. Oh my god. I can't even think about teeth.

Our last meal was at Xiao Bao Biscuit. It must be said that of all the people suggesting one restaurant or another, NOBODY suggested Xiao Bao and this is why NOBODY can be trusted. Xiao Bao is the can't miss place if you come to Charleston. They've converted it from an old gas station, which is super hipster I know, but the environment is laid back and inviting. The server was a Nordic God, male variety, with roasted caramel skin and a nearly white stallion tail. We started out with the Spicy Green Papaya salad, pictured above. Fresh, crunchy, spicy, tart. Delicious. Then we had this little number.

Okonomiyaki, otherwise known as "what you like" cabbage pancake. We ordered ours with Japanese pork candy on top. It was exactly like what you would imagine bacon cotton candy to be. Not bacon flavored cotton candy, but if you could make cotton candy out of bacon. I need to stop using those words. It was just delightful, different, incredibly flavorful. We were in heaven. Our last dish was the crispy duck, which Noah must always have. His Babi used to make it. It wasn't a jaw-dropper, but it was far better than most of the other places we've had crispy duck.

After another sleepless night (I'd accidentally watched Say Yes To The Dress and was troubled with thoughts of humanity being an invasive species, an evolutionary accident, haunted by the answerless question of the meaning of our short and brutal existence) it was time to say goodbye to Charleston. It was really hard to leave, knowing I might not see the sun again for weeks. It was hard to leave happy hour and the city. It was hard to pay $16 for a drip coffee, a latte, and a muffin at the Marriott Starbucks. Will I ever go back? I certainly hope so. Driving away, I thought about Charleston, a charming city that yet lacked a distinctive vibe. Maybe the vibe was shot away by the British, torn down by the hurricanes, trampled out by tourists. I decided it was hidden behind all those shuttered windows on the historic homes, curtains drawn against the eyes of travelers, the snap of iphone cameras. The poor neighborhood in stark contrast to the wealthy, ignored by happy hour seekers such as ourselves. The city full of its native women but fewer men, the stunning barkeeps, the Slavic cabdrivers. I decided Charleston's vibe was secrets. Like everything, the time was short, but I'm glad I went. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Once, In The Desert

I drove the girls to swimming lessons at the Racquet Club, which took me back to the days when I first met Noah and we were visiting his family in Palm Desert. La Quinta, to be specific, if you're in the know. Down the way from Palm Springs. Next to Indio. Noah's parents had a desert home with a casita that I slept in and a pool in the backyard. They belonged to a country club--all of this went away swiftly about a year later, it all drastically changed. But when I first met them, we could go to the country club and sit by the pool for hours, ordering smoothies and hamburgers and fries. We weren't quite old enough to order alcohol, can you believe that? But the endless smoothies and burgers and fries were pleasures enough. Noah's youngest sister was seven, his youngest brother nine, and they shrieked when he threw them around in the pool. I missed that desert, that extreme dry heat, those rows of palms and million-dollar houses, for a moment or two today, when we were at the Racquet Club, in the humidity. It's easy to hold up the past like a palace on a hill, a place where everything is glowing and twinkling. Laughter, champagne bubbles, fairy lights in the dusk. But that's not the reality of it, that vision lacks the truth. Nothing was more perfect then than it is now. That seven-year-old, nut-brown sister Noah threw around in the pool is getting married this August. At the end of the summer we've planned a family trip to the beach. I'll put on my bathing suit and get in the ocean, free from all the self-consciousness and shame that wrapped my body like a shroud when I was 20, though I am heavier now, and looser in every possible way. That girl sat in the shade in a cover up and didn't get in the pool one time. She loved the word Indio, and as she drank strawberry smoothies she rolled it around in her head, a smooth stone that would travel to the belly five years later and make a girl named Indy, who would connect everything like a thread. Who would carry in her the past, and the future,  and who would sparkle up the every present. And it goes on.

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