nichols listening
John Nichols, reading

Fishing for Words with John Nichols

On Saturday, Taos author John Nichols did a reading from his latest novel, The Annual Big Arsenic Fishing Contest! I liked the book when I read it, but I liked it even better when I heard him say it out loud.

For those who haven’t read the novel yet, it depicts a wild romp by “three idiots,” as Nichols called them, that lasts many years. Yes, it’s mostly a comedy.

Big Arsenic coverI reviewed Nichols’ novel in September, after it was released by the University of New Mexico Press, and he was set to do a reading at Brodsky Bookshop in Taos. Here’s the link to the review in my column, The Write Stuff, that appears in Tempo: The Annual Big Arsenic Fishing Contest

Nichols read Saturday at Op Cit Books in Taos, which was also celebrating its first anniversary. Needless to say, the upstairs was filled with fans. Nichols didn’t disappoint them, reading at length from three sections.

He’s an old hand at reading. After all, this novel is number 21. Likely his best known is the Milagro Beanfield War. His next book, about his connection to the natural world, should be out early next year.

Afterward, we who had copies of the novel lined up to have them signed. I’ve been to readings where the author is typically a friendly signer, but Nichols goes beyond that. He’s in no darn rush as he talks with the book’s owner and writes a rather lengthy note inside accompanied by a drawing of a rather devilish-looking angel.

When it was my turn, Nichols thanked me for the review. We talked about writing. He goes at it when most of us are sleeping aka the graveyard shift. There are no distractions then, he explains. He writes in notebooks then types the text into a computer (he’s a fast typer) and prints the pages. We talked about the publishing industry, his former agent and editor. He asked if I wrote.

It was a delightful conversation, and I would have asked him more questions — an occupational hazard from being a former longtime journalist — but there was a line behind me. We shook hands, again.

Later, I read what he wrote in my copy. Yes, he included the cartoon. It made me smile.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s John Nichols in conversation with a fan.

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andrew bassoon
Beatles, books, music, Peace Love and You Know What, reading

Thank You So Very Much

I have been immersed in copyediting, reading the ms for The Sweet Spot forwards, backwards and forwards. Now I raise my head above this task and thank a whole bunch of people.

Brodsky

Andrew Heinrich and Rick Smith at Brodsky.

Andrew Heinrich is the first I will mention. A bassoonist, Andrew expanded his serious repertoire of classical music to grant my request that he play The Beatles at my Sept. 17 reading of Peace, Love, and You Know What at Brodsky Bookshop in Taos. He played more songs than I expected, including one of my favorites, In My Life, from the album Rubber Soul.

Andrew studied the instrument at the Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory. He hasn’t played in public for a while, so I am very grateful. The audience was delighted. I was, too.

He will have a return engagement when he plays at my next reading, unscheduled as of yet but likely later this fall. That would be for The Sweet Spot, and the natural accompaniment would be Country and Western — pre-eight track. I am talking about the likes of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. Stay tuned.

Secondly, thanks to Rick Smith at Brodsky for hosting the reading and the attentive audience who came. They laughed at the funny parts. What can I say?

Next, I thank those who have bought my books — in stores and online.

I am further grateful to those who have taken the time to write a review on Amazon. The latest was my friend, Cindy Brown, author of the Taos Hiking Guide. (If you hike in the Taos area, you need to buy her book.)

Cindy wrote in part, “The characters feel real and we get to see into what they are thinking and feeling; really understanding their motivations and doubts. The book follows them through the end of college and their launch into real life — complete with surprises and mystery that makes for a compelling read.”

She messaged me when she filed the review. Then I found a surprise: reviews from people I didn’t know.

Eli Dunn titled his review: Don’t miss this gem! “Funny, funky, and fresh this fictional account of hipsters on campus during the sixties will draw you into their world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. With a ready-made soundtrack, this novel is sure to be a cult movie favorite someday soon.” (I like that idea.)

Joana wrote: “Well, that was fun. This novel rang true to college hippie life at the cusp of the 70s. I felt like I knew the characters to the point of faces popping into my head, because I met some of their doppelgangers back in those days. Sexy, druggy, yet still a hopeful story of young uncertain people finding their way through their ‘coming of age’ towards love and adulthood. The story is timeless in that sense. Hope we hear more from Ms. Livingston!”

An anonymous reviewer gave it five stars and the comment, “Great book.”

Here’s the link, if you want your shot: Peace, Love, and You Know What on Amazon

So it’s back to work. Later this week, Michelle, who designs my books, will give me a timeframe. Meanwhile I keep hunting for misplaced commas, typos and repetitive words  — now in 50-page increments, my latest device. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read The Sweet Spot, but I still love it. I hope you all will, too.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Andrew Heinrich plays the bassoon. Photos by Cody Hooks.

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books, Peace Love and You Know What, reading

Peace, Love, and The Beatles on the Bassoon

I have a reading of my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What scheduled Saturday, Sept. 17 at one of my favorite bookstores Brodsky Bookshop. If you happen to be in Taos, it starts 4 p.m. Of course, it’s free.

Besides reading about the hippies from the fictional Westbridge State College, I have invited Andrew Heinrich to play a few Beatles songs on the bassoon.

Andrew studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory. He typically plays classical music on the bassoon but agreed to add The Beatles to his repertoire for the reading. I left the choices up to him.

And, yes, there will be brownies, sans the ingredient the character Lenora used in the ones she baked in the book. After all, pot ain’t legal in New Mexico.

Copies of the book will be available to purchase.

So, what’s the novel about? Tim and his roommates, Manny, Mack and the nervous poet Joey, plan a three-day graduation bash at their slummy college apartment. At the top of their invite list is Lenora, their queen, who is graduating and splitting for Europe. (Tim, who is a few credits short, is faking his graduation.) Tim and Lenora have been tight friends for four years and he figures this party might be his last chance with her.

The three-day bash is a big hit for every hippie freak — including the rival Roach Motel Tribe — and dirty professor at Westbridge State College. You name it, they do it. Tim does get his chance with Lenora, but so do two others. And graduation manages to go off almost without a hitch.

For the next few years, Lenora lives in a commune while Tim stumbles on a path toward adulthood and perhaps that elusive happiness.

I am grateful to Rick Smith at Brodsky for the opportunity to read from my novel. Brodsky is a small store crammed with books, mostly used but some new, especially from local authors like myself.

The bookshop goes on largely because Smith makes it an experience to visit and buy books. He has a wealth of knowledge about Taos and tells good stories. Then, there is Willy, the shop cat.

Finding something good to read, whether it is old or new, is a serendipitous experience at Brodsky. Here is a story I wrote for The Taos News about the shop. Brodsky story Taos News

I am getting ready for the reading by choosing a few good sections. Oh, yeah, I gotta bake those brownies.

If you live or are visiting in Taos, I hope to see you there.

Here’s the link to Amazon for Peace, Love, and You Know What: Peace etc. on Amazon

 

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Education, reading, Writing

A Love of Learning

“Learn something new” has been my personal mantra since I officially left the news biz in May. As I tell people who ask, I am reinventing myself.

I’ve shared some of those inventions on this website, such as putting more of an emphasis on my fiction. That includes learning a new method of copyediting — reading a manuscript backwards — plus learning the Garage Band program and attempting to create an audio book of my recently released Professor Groovy and Other Stories. (That’s a work in progress still, but I’m oh so closer to getting it done.) I also launched a book review column, The Write Stuff.

And, ta-da, I am starting a new novel, a mystery this time. I’m into the first chapter. The main character is a woman. Actually she tells the story. She was the long-time managing editor of a newspaper that got sold to a corporation and she declined to re-apply for her job. (Uh, that’s not what happened to me.)

The mystery? She can’t let go of the case of a missing woman that was bungled from the get-go. This novel, like four others, is set in the hill towns of Western Massachusetts, where I once lived.

I will share one more new gig — teaching writing and reading for a career path at the Adult Learning Center at UNM-Taos. It’s very part-time, only 3 ½ hours a week, but this job allows me to reuse the tools I relied on as an editor. My class is one of the many offered by the center, including ESL. All are free by the way.

Here’s the link Adult Learning Center at UNM-Taos

My class has about 16 students, including teenagers and 20-somethings. Some have been home-schooled. Some left high school a while ago. They are here to pass the test for their high school degree and for many, prepare for college entrance exams and advance their education. Their fields of interest range from architecture to medicine to the arts etc.

My students are an extremely likable group. I feel the same way about my dedicated colleagues at the center.

Each student has an interesting story to tell, but I will respect their privacy. I will say, however, I admire their motivation to learn. I believe it’s something we have in common.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The door is open at the Adult Learning Center at UNM-Taos.

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