Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How To Get Thrown Out Of A Country Club in Hong Kong

I love Hong Kong. It's one of my favorite cities in the world along with Venice, Perugia, Sevilla, San Francisco, New York, and Molyvos in Greece.

My first two days I'm staying at Sai Kun in the New Territories, a far cry from the frantic city center with its tall buildings and hard working egos. Out here there are still sun sets and wild cows roaming the streets.

That's right, Sai Kun is known for its wild cows munching out on the grass in the roundabouts. These vicious animals are known to attack bus drivers and mosquitoes. They get in the way of the traffic, but contrary to the holy cows in India, these cows are not into meditation. These Chinese cows mean business. They will gang up on you and maim you before you have the chance to say dim sum.

Am I making this up? Maybe a tiny bit. I'm introduced to these weird cows when my Chinese guide drives me through Sai Kun on the way to a posh country club at Clearwater Bay.

By the way, I'm not exactly country club material. I'm known to pick my nose in public, and luxury never impresses me too much. However, I'm a bit of a view freak, and Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club has a view to die for. The bay is right underneath, full of greenish water, small windy islands, and lazy sampans.

But right now I'm just warming up to two events at Lingnan University with some country club fries in the 86 degrees weather, while I'm writing on my next novel. My only problem is a sign by the entrance that makes me vomit.

"Are you serious???" I ask the lady at the counter. "I brought my Filipino maid, my Indonesian butler, and my Norwegian slut, and you're telling me I can't bring them into the pool area?"

"So sorry, Sir," the Chinese lady says.

"But I promise you they won't drool."

"Not allowed, Sir."

"I could tie them to a post somewhere," I ask politely. "Norwegians are used to that."

A few minutes later it gets ugly. The Chinese lady calls her boss, and I'm carried out of the club foaming at the mouth. "I'm the owner of three yachts," I shout. "No, make that four yachts. Five. Siiiiiix..."

Ah, the problems of the rich ...

Did this really happen, you want to ask?

Well, let me put it this way, I felt it happened, for thank God I'm only an underpaid novelist who has no business in a country club. Believe it or not, I don't even have people to write my books for me which just goes to show how out of place I am in Clearwater Bay ...

At night I learn that a new survey has come out. It claims that Hong Kong is the place on earth with the largest gab between rich and poor.

The next day my Chinese guide takes me to the picturesque pier in Sai Kun with fish tanks full of Barracudas that you can munch on for lunch. Here I feel right at home being a bit of barracuda myself.

Tomorrow I'm going to Lingnan University to do my first Hong Kong reading on My Pretentious World Tour for The Tsar's Dwarf.

And hey, I'm planning to bring some of the wild cows with me, so I'm sure to have a sizable audience ...


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting High on Oxygen at Wordstock Book Festival in Portland

Yes, all writers are on drugs.

I'm into two things: Extra Strength Tylenol - and the Piña Colada scent at the Oxygen Bar in Wordstock's VIP room.

Man, did I get high. I put on one of those nasty plastic tubes that go over your ears. It has nozzles that fit into your nostril, so you look as if you've just survived a liver transplant. And then my head began to spin.

After the first hit I started to sing the Danish national anthem. After the second, I shared my selection of raunchy Christian spirituals. They had to carry me out on a stretcher while I shouted, "My name is Richard Dawkins, I'll sign your fucking books now."

This, of course, all took place in my mind, except for the fact that there was an Oxygen Bar in the writers' VIP room at Wordstock - a VIP room so crowded it reminded me of a Polish concentration camp. The coffee was cold, but the people who worked there were hot.

When I arrived at the biggest book event in Oregon, I was met by an escort (no, unfortunately not that kind), then I was led in handcuffs to The Mountain Writers Stage to do my reading of The Tsar's Dwarf.

That was not a wise choice of venues. I'm from one of the flattest countries in the world, so after I started to talk I suffered from vertigo. Verbs fell off the page and crashed to an untimely death while I tried to concentrate on the great audience in front of me.

Apparently, I've gotten a reputation as an entertaining reader/performer which definitely is true when I'm not on oxygen. But it's hard to be a serious writer of lit. fiction when all you can think of is, "I gotta get back to the VIP room for some more oxygen."

So how does an Oxygen Bar look, you may ask? Well, before my first hit I was a middle aged writer with dandruff, but after two rounds of fresh scented air I turned into a gorgeous platinum blond with a nose job.

So yes, Wordstock was great fun. I signed about 15 books, met readers who wanted me to do books on tape, talked for twenty seconds with Chelsea Cain, for nine seconds with Monica Drake, and for seven seconds with April Henry. Then I hung out at Hawthorne Books booth where I harassed people into buying more of my books.

"I'll sign anything, even the Old Testament," I shouted.

Wordstock is a wonderful event. You can listen to 186 writers who all say the same thing. You can buy expensive tacos, attend work shops about adverbs, and run into people like James Ellroy and Sherman Alexie.

But now you have to excuse me. I have to get back to that cool Oxygen Bar for the newest and most popular scent, the Swine Flu.

Next stop on My Pretentious World Tour for The Tsar's Dwarf is Lingnan University in Hong Kong, China.