Occult Los Angeles (and this is just the beginning)

I wanted to direct your attention to this piece I wrote last summer for The Towner, The Architecture of Belief, about (of course) Los Angeles (of course) and the occult (of course):

Here is a story about Los Angeles: In 1935, a man who attempted to murder his wife gifted over 4,000 acres of land – previously owned by a man who had survived two attempts on his own life by separate, jilted lovers – to a corrupt mayor later driven from office by the efforts of a charitable Christian businessman with a side business in sexual novelties, who discovered that mayor’s secrets behind a false wall in a fake library. That businessman founded a thriving chain of restaurants built on the premise of giving away free food, one of which became the meeting place for a science fiction writer’s club, whose members included a man who conned a rocket scientist out of his life savings after first taking notes on how the scientist masturbated, and another man who convinced the city of Los Angeles to erect a three-story-tall fake Babylonian arch in the middle of Hollywood and then turn it into a shopping mall. This really happened, and I mention it here to remind you of the old saw about truth’s superlative relationship to fiction.

I've just started work on a book about the occult in the San Fernando Valley and I couldn't be happier. Have a story about goths in Burbank, psychics in the North Hollywood, or healers in Pacoima? Let me know!

Midnight Madness

I'm late to post this, but last month I went to New York to work with my friends Mat and Andrea on Midnight Madness.

Midnight Madness is an annual all-night scavenger hunt and charity fundraiser on Wall Street. For the last year I've been working with Mat Laibowitz, the game's founder, to research, write, and test puzzles. During the event itself, I worked Game Control, helping to track and guide the teams through the city (and my husband Dev worked as Tech Support, installing and repairing game installations).

Dev and his multimeter

Andrea installing some of the light boxes

At Game Control:


My work station

There are some great articles about Midnight Madness here, here, here, here, here, and especially this video.

It was probably the most grueling 24 hours of my life, but I can't wait to do it again next year.

In the classroom and on the air

Last Saturday I was on the radio talking about - what else? - shipwreck songs! On Bob's No Wake Zone Boating Radio Show, on KRMS 97.5. You can catch it in the archives here.

I was also a guest on the Brock Party podcast recently, where I was talking about ghosts - and a little about shipwrecks.

Up next, I'll be doing a reading about Bollywood movies at Machine Project.

Also I'll be teaching short fiction writing in two upcoming classes at The Writing Pad. The first is an intensive one-day workshop on Sunday, September 27, from 2:30-5:30pm.

Then I'll be teaching a five-week short fiction class starting Sunday, October 4, 2:30-5:30pm, also at The Writing Pad.

Come sign up and hang out with me - there will be snacks!

The Least Dangerous Game

A partial list of literary egg puns compiled by Aubrey Clayton and me, with contributions by Zac Lizer:

Eat, Pray, L'Oeuf
How to Hen Friends and Eggfluence People
Fear of Frying
The Yolk and Its Relation to the Unconscious
12 Albumen
Our Bodies, Our Shells
The Tragedy of Omelette, Prince of Henmark
Upton Sinclair's "Boil!"
The Huevo the Pilgrim
The Kreutzer Frittata
The Mayonnaise Waltz
Thus Spoke Shakshuka
The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzoufflé
The Poachman Always Meringues Twice
Live and Let Dye
The Scrambler
The Soufflé Also Rises
This Sunnyside of Paradise
All Quiet on the Western Omelette
Over-Easy of Eden
Scrambler's List
Croque Madame Bovary
Don Quicheote
The Deviled Dictionary

The Most Dangerous Game

One great game to play with children at the Natural History Museum is to point to one of the dioramas and ask, "What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?" The answers may surprise you.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
No, actually it's the cape buffalo.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
Yes, it's an elk, but not the one you'd think.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
It's lupine, a poisonous woodland flower.
What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
That lizard on top of the boulder.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
That fox's crippling depression.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
Your own unchallenged assumptions.
What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
Over-reliance on hydroelectric dams.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
Climate change.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
The lead used to paint the backdrop.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
Cosmic background radiation.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
The baby hippo, who is going to grow up to be a spree killer.

What's the most dangerous thing in this scene?
The baby chimpanzee, who is 10x more venomous than the adult.

Hot Dish Brunch is Back!

Hot Dish Reading Series returns to 826LA for its third annual brunch party! And we're recommended by both Time Out and KPCC!

Featuring readings by Dorothy Fortenberry, James Hannaham, Ana Kasparian, JJ Keith, Samantha Powell, and Lilliam Rivera, plus a full brunch spread and beverages!

Admission for all of this is only $10, one hundred percent of which goes to support the student programs at 826LA.

Check out our Facebook event page here.

The Best Places to Get Free Coffee in Los Angeles

"When the Great Old Ones are recalled to power someday, they will be summoned right here in the Valley, in a strip mall between an El Pollo Loco and an adult bookstore."

Check out The Best Places to Get Free Coffee in LA - my first time in The Awl; not my first time talking about free coffee, PTA raps, LSD-laced sugar cubes, Freemasons, or the Deep Valley.

"The truth is, I can’t imagine living without constant low-level embarrassment about my teeth, like the roar of silence in a room after someone turns off the TV."

Meanwhile, on Medium, I published The List. This will probably be the only time I discuss my butt on the internet, so get on it.

Also, while we're talking about Medium, You Have Plenty of Time to Love Them Later is at more than 213,000 views!

Updates This Week

A few of the projects I'm doing these days:

I've been working with startup Evertoon to create short, funny YouTube videos that showcase their text-to-video app. The first one was posted here just in time for Valentine's Day.

I'm also continuing to do content writing for the smart home automation company Cliqk, as well as maintaining their social media accounts.

I'm now helping out 826LA writing product copy for their awesome Time Travel Mart - look for Tiny Tim's Instant Gruel and Lil' Gutenberg's Moveable Type Kit soon.

My very best assignment, though, is definitely working with Mat Laibowitz on his projects, Endgame and Midnight Madness, researching, writing, and testing scavenger hunt puzzles.

In addition to these regular assignments, I'm writing pieces for The Toast and McSweeney's, plus publishing on Medium. My most recent piece on Medium is here. Another one should be out this week. (And amazingly my last Medium piece, You Have Plenty of Time to Love Them Later, is now at over 207,000 views - thank everyone so much for their support and kind words!)

I'm also working on a new comedy series, "The Best Places to Get Free Coffee in Los Angeles."

I haven't started revising my play The Nightmare Box yet, but I will definitely start doing that any day now.

Also, I've been thinking over the possibility of a novel, a modern retelling of Flaubert's comedy Bouvard et Pécuchet about internet culture. I'm still in the reading and research stage, but feeling excited.

And last but definitely not least - Hot Dish brunch is back! Join us Sunday, March 29th to hear readings by Dorothy Fortenberry, James Hannaham, Ana Kasparian, J.J. Keith, and Samantha Powell.

You Have Plenty of Time to Love Them Later

Wow, what a week! I am very pleased - and more than a little surprised - by what a great response I've had from You Have Plenty of Time to Love Them Later.

I originally wrote this as an email to my friend Sommer Browning when she was pregnant with her daughter. I decided to post it on Medium on January 7 and since then it's been viewed almost 200,000 times and counting. And I've gotten so many nice notes and messages from people all over the country, too.  Thanks, everyone!

Magical Thinking

"For Christmas this year, my daughter wants Santa to bring her a magic wand that allows her to enter books and movies, interact with the characters, and change their outcomes . . . She also wants the wand to resurrect the dead, though she adds this bonus feature as something of an afterthought, like a stand mixer that also makes sausage."
I'm back on Medium talking about adult American Girl fans, ontological freakouts, and Lovecraftian horror.

Modeling on Medium and More from the Music Center

"In the nicest shot Beatrice is sitting on an overturned trash can with a giant pink plastic flower in her hair, but somehow she makes it look good, which is probably the definition of a born model."

I have my first piece up on Medium, discussing my complicated feelings about Beatrice's short stint as a clothing model.  So far I'm really enjoying the Medium interface, I think I'll stick around.

Also, there are more Music Center episodes up! Check out #7, 8, 9, and 10.


Lastly, I've started working with the home automation startup Cliqk, writing some of their web and social media content and generally helping out.