new fiction

Meet the Author on Saturday, and Get Free Stuff (Maybe)!

I’ll be joining Isa Jones, my favorite British/Mexican book publicist LIVE tomorrow at 1:30PM EST for a celebration of her blog‘s one year anniversary!

isaheader

Click this image to join the Facebook event Saturday 3/28

Join the Facebook online extravaganza featuring a lot of authors with a lot of books featuring heaving bosoms and defined, sweating pecs.

Then, there’s me!

I’ll be posing questions, answering questions, sharing intimate details, and stirring up trouble. I’ll also be giving stuff away. Join the event and watch the posts roll by. Jump in when you like!

Also, speaking of “giving stuff away,” you still have a few days to enter my book giveaway on Goodreads. Enter to win a free, signed copy of Diamond-T delivered to anywhere in any of these 50 United States. Enter the contest below.

And no matter what you do this weekend, please try to remember to have a great one!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eye of the Diamond-T by Bill LaBrie

Eye of the Diamond-T

by Bill LaBrie

Giveaway ends March 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I Want my Kid to Catch on Fire

Looking back on it, I owe a lot to the February, 1981 issue of Motor Trend.

Motor_Trend_Magazine-1981-February
I
 had just turned twelve. As a homeschooled sixth-grader I had perfected the art of doing as little as possible while still more-or-less keeping up with assignments. Literature and social sciences did nothing for me. Math? Let’s not get started on math.

I was wallowing.

Scratch that: I was sinking.

Then, I found that my mom had subscribed me (probably through Publisher’s Clearing House) to Motor Trend. One day the mail brought the issue in the picture above.

And my life would never be the same.

I read every article, every ad, and every letter to the editor. I memorized every specification of every car reviewed. I jotted down notes. I made a trip the the local library to dig into past issues. I started reading other car rags, giving them the same studious attention.

I was on fire.

Suddenly, it all made sense–all of the scholarly subjects. My vocabulary started growing because I wanted to understand the shadings of grown-up words. Articles on the United Auto Workers made me curious about unions and why they mattered. I wanted to know what a government-backed bailout was. Math suddenly seemed valuable. If I wanted to figure what gear ratio would be necessary to make a ’68 Camaro with a blown 427 top 200 MPH, I needed to know math. That. . . that. . . was what math was for!

But my inquiry didn’t stay isolated the world of cars. No! Soon, I started reading everything I could. Everything related back to the automotive world in some way.  Dante’s rings of hell obviously had inspired the design of the engine mounts on a Euro-market 1983 Ford Sierra. What other remote associations could I find? I needed to know more. I could sense my mind engaging like a set of straight-cut gears in a NASCAR Monte Carlo. It was all go go GO!

And in the background: Always the voice telling me that I really wanted a car so I could get away from my parents and never, ever look back.

But see, these were all good things. After years of blaise noodling over one topic or another, I had finally found something that lit me up like firecracker. It happened to come in the form of a magazine dedicated to reviews of the exciting new Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I’ve learned not to judge, and neither should you. The point is that it happened. Here we are. Motor Trend got me through high school and at least into college. I can’t fathom what a diagram showing the associations made from that one magazine might look like.

So now I have a kid who’s eight. He’s a lot like I was at his age: curious but unfocused; clever but not determined.

And I keep waiting for something to catch him on fire.

* * * * *

I suppose some could have foreseen that a 12-year-old gearhead would end up writing a book with a truck in the title. Pick up my debut novel Eye of the Diamond-T  HERE. It’s about a lot more than trucks, obviously.

The 1950s: America on the Brink of Change

Diamond-T is about a lot of things.

diamondt-teaser-shelby1

One of those things is how the status quo of the time couldn’t remain standing. 1957 was a great year in a great decade for Americans. Many Americans,  but not all.

Already, cracks in the facade were beginning to show. And in the decade that followed, they’d explode full-force.

Kinda like a truck going off a bridge and crashing into a train — if you know what I mean.

Anyway, of the many challenges my protagonist Nick Pente faces, one of the most remarkable is racism. Not against him, really. Although he’s ethnically Greek, it never stopped him from getting a table in a restaurant. No — the challenge to Nick shows through in what he allows himself to dream about. He knows deep-down that the idyllic life in suburban Chicago he desires just isn’t going to work with him married to a Hopi maiden.

And then there’s the case of Shelby Howell. He inspires Nick to consider what might be in the trailer he’s been towing up and down Route 66. He’d never paused to think about the load he was carrying: His baggage.

Throughout the story there are hints of things that were taken for granted in a time when race and ethnicity were very real things. For many people alive at the time, it was all they needed to form a judgment. Readers from younger generations might be shocked. But then, maybe not.

Anyway, pick up your copy of Eye of the Diamond-T today and see what I mean. There’s a lot of meaning folded into Nick’s last journey down Route 66.

The 66 Kid: Meeting Bob Boze Bell

Arizona has its living institutions, and one of these is author, historian, artist, raconteur, publisher, and radio personality Bob Boze Bell.

bobbozebell2

While stumbling through the fields of the enormous Tucson Festival of Books, I turned a corner and happened upon a personal hero of mine. Bob’s articles and cartoons in National Lampoon and the Phoenix New Times in the 1980s reassured me there was someone out there who could relate. He was also proof that something great could bloom in the desert. From his beginnings as the son of a service-station owner in Kingman along the Mother Road in northern Arizona, he parlayed those experiences into an artistic career. He knew the road and life in the towns along that road, and it shows.

“My parents played Kingman. They were travelling lounge musicians!” I told him, realizing that of all people, he’d understand. He paused. His eyes glimmered.

“Where they happy?” he asked.

That’s the question a philosopher would ask, really.

Without getting too far into it while standing there, I explained that they likely would have been happy had they just left it at that. However, those evil deceivers Captain and Tennille had convinced them in about 1975 that they, too, could hit the big time. I might be the only person in the world who convincingly blames his lost childhood on Captain and Tennille. It’s not much of a distinction, but I’ll take it.

Bob appeared intrigued by the story behind my novel Diamond-T, and I proudly presented him with a copy, signed with my shaking hand (I think I got the date wrong. Oh well.) Yes, Bob: there really is a bridge. It’s on Hisoric 66 a few miles East of Seligman.

I picked up a copy of The 66 Kid, Bob’s compendium of images and stories collected through his youth spent along the Mainstreet of America. It’s a fantastic collection of snapshots, clippings, original art, and fond remembrances of Bob’s childhood in Kingman and at various places around Northern Arizona.

If I had an ounce or two more chutzpah, I’d call it a companion piece to Diamond-T.

If you want to see how things looked in the roadside oasis towns of that era, and learn the real-life stories of the people who lived there, I recommend it highly.

I also recommend all the other works of Mr. Bell — long may he reign as the troubadour of the modern West, and all that passed along that mythic old highway through Kingman.

Mid-Century Modernism and Diamond-T

In 1957, they didn’t call it “Mid-Century Modernism.” It definitely was “modern,” however.

mid-century-modern
The architecture of that age partially inspired Diamond-T. The confidence and sheer audacity is undeniable. One of Nick Pente’s first stops on what would be his final trip happens at a place I called the “Jet Travel Plaza.” It’s a fictional truckstop-of-the-future somewhere along Route 66 near Amarillo. It embodies a lot of what was then current in commercial architecture.

The tall, automatic sliding doors opened onto a palace of glass, stainless steel and burnished aluminum. The floor glowed with the aura of neon and recessed lighting. The lights over the kitchen-order window looked like the exhaust ports on F-105s, glowing orange on takeoff. The stools at the counter resembled metal-and-vinyl thrones that would have been at home on the bridge of an intergalactic cruiser.
Busboys and waitresses moved about about in linens white as pure bolts of lightning. The waitresses wore orange aprons and little pillbox hats. The workers seemed slow at this early hour, but still carried themselves with a cheerful efficiency. The floor was polished like a gem. It seemed to have diamonds in it. Music filled the air, faintly echoing off of every hard surface. Each booth and most of the spaces at the counter had their own chrome mini-jukeboxes, where for a nickel, one could hear the latest from Ferlin Husky or Jimmy Rodgers or Roger Williams. Where it sat, the Jet seemed like an outpost of an advanced civilization from another planet. — from Eye of the Diamond-T Ch. 3

Spacey!

There was something magical about that time that still captivates us. Thus, the continued popularity of the architecture, furniture, and art of the time.

Flavorwire has put together a nice little slideshow of images from that fanciful time when whatever didn’t look like a spaceship needed to look like a Tiki lodge of some description. You can see more HERE.

And don’t forget to get your copy of Eye of the Diamond-T HERE.

Yet Another Strained “Box” Metaphor

“Great writing doesn’t think outside the box. It never knew what the box was in the first place”

— Dan Holloway

roof-540835_640

I never really understood boxes. It’s cost me a lot through the years. “Boxes” are  — by definition — definitive. Definitions tend to be social in nature. I’ve had a complex relationship with society for most of my life. My inability to recognize “boxes” comes from my inability to accept social constraints in the first place. This can prove costly. If you don’t like the “success” that comes in the box, you can work very hard inside the box and never be happy.

A young friend of mine told me something very interesting. He told me certain young women didn’t seem “hot” to him until he heard his friends — in private — pointing out how “hot” they were. He’d take a second look and see the females in a new light. He found himself suddenly agreeing that yes, they were “hot.” It wasn’t just social pressure: The awareness of their “hotness” to others actually caused a physical reaction in him. He was attracted to them physically — biologically — but only after their attractiveness was endorsed by his peer group.

That’s the power of the “box.” His peer group was a defined box. That box had defined other boxes, some more worthy than others. Boxes.

And — as a better writer once said — so it goes.

But what happens when you don’t have that social group to tell you what’s good and attractive and seemly? Well, then things get difficult. You don’t have popular definitions of “success” to strive towards. There are no guidelines. You need to make it up as you go along and hope it gets you someplace suitable, if not entirely comfortable.

That’s the story of my life.

Eye of the Diamond-T doesn’t fit into any specific box. I didn’t write it that way just to be difficult. I honestly can’t do what other people do. I grew up without any box to fit into. If there was a box when I was growing up, it didn’t look like a box. It looked more like a Klein Bottle or something — some impossible geometric shape offered up as a thought-exercise intended to show a student the limitations of geometry itself. “The point is that you shouldn’t put too much faith in geometry, but hope you have fun with this!” it seemed to say.

Thus, Diamond-T is an impossible geometric shape that defies easy genre classification. It’s a romance, a spy/conspiracy story, a mystery, a coming-of-age story, a spiritual journey, a commentary of the political and social atmosphere of America in the ’50s, and a nostalgia trip. If there’s a “box” that all fits into, I think that “box” is called Eye of the Diamond-T.

And although it might not qualify as “great writing,” it’s what I had to do.

And I hope you enjoy it.