Here’s another sneak peek at some of the artwork from the upcoming The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens, showing a young person in nineteenth-century attire clinging to a log being swept toward a waterfall. (Of course there’s a waterfall. You don’t have a character cling to a log in a swiftly-flowing river without there being a waterfall.) It’s a deliberate echo of Eliza’s escape across the Ohio River in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book that features prominently in The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens. Stowe, being a sensible writer, has her heroine cross the river in winter when it’s frozen. My characters lack all sense and try it in mid-August.
In The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens a first edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin plays the role of what Alfred Hitchcock used to call a MacGuffin, something that drives a story's plot but which the story's audience really couldn't care less about, like the bird in The Maltese Falcon or the ruby sneakers in The Wizard of Oz. At one point in TBTPTTH, a first edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin winds up in a Ziploc bag, and the Ziploc bag turns out to be more important than the book. (Such is the nature of MacGuffins.)
Here’s the second sneak peak at the Fan brothers’ (Eric’s and Terry’s) interior art for The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens. This month’s vignette is Nellie’s Erratic, which is not the diagnosis of a slightly deranged nineteenth-century woman but rather a large boulder situated near one of the picnic areas in Gustimuck Park, Ohio.
The boulder proves to be an important timemark for the heroes of the book. A timemark is like a landmark, only instead of helping you figure out where you are, it helps you figure out when you are. Nellie’s Erratic does this by the amount of graffiti on it: In the twenty-first century, you can’t see the rock for the spray paint; in 1852, there’s only the faintly etched Jake Smith Leaving for Californy June 10, 1849.
The character of Nellie’s Erratic is based on a boulder I once knew in Joshua Tree National Monument, Californy, back in the early 1970s. A park ranger by the name of Shifty (that’s what it said on his name tag) held out some tickets and asked if I was there for the Parsons cremation, and when I indicated I didn’t know what he was talking about he quickly tucked the tickets away and sold me a rock-deflecting umbrella instead, charging me only $200 and assuring me that as I was about to enter a falling rock zone, the umbrella was guaranteed to deflect any and all falling rocks.
As you can see from the photo below, it was money well spent. (Although, in all honesty, the rock fell directly behind me, so it wasn’t really deflected. But I’m not ashamed to admit - I jumped a little.)
Photo credit: Paul “G.A.F” Feldman, where the “G.A.F.” is said in the voice of Henry Fonda.
Here are the nunchucks that play such an important role in Chapter Four of The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens.
The artwork is by Terry Fan and his brother Eric; and I'm delighted to say they've done similar illustrations for each of the book's twenty-seven chapters. (That is, twenty-seven illustrations of different things; not twenty-seven illustrations of nunchucks. The book is weird, but not that weird.)
If you study the picture closely, you'll realize these nunchucks are made from two of the cardboard tubes found in the centers of paper towel rolls. Compare the illustration to this photograph of actual paper-towel-roll nunchucks:
The observant reader of this blog, if there is such a thing, will notice that each of the tubes in the illustration has six bands of dried glue circling it while those in the photo have five. Terry and Eric's nunchucks are made out of tubes from industrial-strength artist-grade paper towels. Artist-grade paper towels are twenty-eight percent more absorbent than the towels the rest of us use, because artists spill more things than the rest of us and the things they spill are twenty-eight percent wetter. (India ink, for example has a Specific Wetness of 8.4, more than twice the Specific Wetness of orange juice.)
This is the first of five sneak peeks at Time Travel's interior art. I intend highlighting one illustration per month until the book's April publication, or until I get a cease-and-desist order from my publisher or from one or more of the Fan brothers.
Next Month: Nellie's Erratic
Most recently, it happened in my kitchen.
Having finally tired of cold, raw dough cupcakes, I decided to have the wall oven replaced with one capable of rising above room temperature. When the old oven was removed, I peered into the dark opening.
"Can you see anything?" asked Lord Carnarvon, standing behind me with a group of assorted Egyptologists. (They were there for lunch. I like having Egyptologists over; some of them have fascinating stories.)
"Yes - wonderful things!" I replied.
Mainly, the kitchen's original wallpaper, dating back to 1950.
If that's not time travel, I don't know what is.
Here's a picture:
There was also a small, mummified squirrel, which the Egyptologists found more interesting.
The middle school featured in my next book - The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens - is named after Ambrose Bierce. Bierce was a writer, born in Ohio, and is best remembered for The Devil's Dictionary (1906), which contains such definitions as:
TSETSE FLY, n. An African insect (Glossina morsitans) whose bite is commonly regarded as nature's most efficacious remedy for insomnia, though some patients prefer that of the American novelist (Mendax interminabilis).
The middle school I attended was named after the thirty-fifth U.S. president, and has an historical marker in front of it to remind everybody. The marker celebrates the likelihood that the local Board of Ed could easily win on Jeopardy, by being quicker to the buzzer than the competition.
The Indorsia.com blog has been up and running now for two full years, with at least one update per month, until September of 2014, when a scarcity of news about the first book - What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World - and a paucity of promotional material about the upcoming second book - The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens - resulted in the first missed month.
One of the highlights of my summer was being a Visiting Writer at the Thalia Book Club Camp in Manhattan's Thalia Theater and getting to work with some really terrific kids. In the picture below I'm holding a pillow case and pretending to be Charlie Brown on Halloween, saying “All I got was a rock!” (The audience's reaction was stony.) Things picked up, though, when each kid reached into the pillow case and pulled out something they had “found in a sofa,” and they then improvised skits about how those objects - keys, remotes, wallets, watches - led them on wacky adventures.
Some of the contents of the pillowcase. The least recognizable are a thimble, bell, yo-yo, and (upper right) a nineteenth-century glass magic lantern slide depicting a wizard waving a wand at a cauldron. The kids got together in groups of three, each got an object, and then they combined their three objects into a story. (Pick three objects. Try it yourself. This is as interactive as this blog gets.)
The last time I had been in the Thalia Theater (One of New York City's great revival houses) was in 1969 for a Marx Brothers double feature and yes, my chewing gum was still under the seat. (And still viable, which was terrific, since Teaberry is so tough to find these days.)
My favorite muse has always been Thalia, the muse of comedy. (A close second is Errata, the muse of misinformation. In college I wrote a poem entitled "An Odd to Errata." which, in the second edition, included a slip of paper explaining "Odd" was supposed to be "Ode.") (You had to be there.)
It is also the release day of the paperback version of What We Found in the Sofa! (There is, oddly enough, no National Sofa Day. Whoever is responsible for these things has been lying down on the job—but not often enough.)
So you now have three reading options:
Hardcover on the sofa;
Paperback in the hammock;
Or eBook on the toilet.
So there’s no reason for you not to read my book.
(Unless, of course, you’re restless and constipated.)
My daughter. She says the paperback edition of SOFA is much funnier than the hardcover. (Her exact word was "lighter.")
July 2nd is the one year anniversary of the publication of What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World, and what better way to celebrate than to unveil the cover of the French edition? Here it is:
Ce Qu’on a Trouvé dans le Canapé puis Comment on a Sauvé le Monde is ten letters longer than the English title, making the entire book heftier and therefore a much better value than its American counterpart. Google Translate says the French title means What We Found in the Hors d’oeuvre and How It Saved the Newspaper, so, obviously, Google Translate had the same high school French teacher I did.
At the bottom of the cover it says “Un Roman de Henry Clark.” This is the first Roman I’ve ever written, if you don’t count Sophia Loren when I was thirteen. (Sophia never wrote back, although I did get a rather terse note from Carlo Ponti.)
Availability: Au printemps, by which I mean spring of 2015 and not the fancy Parisian department store where books like mine are kept in a bin in the alley outside the back door. You might, more profitably, try Les Cousins d’Alice over on Rue Daguerre, next to the baguette place. (My book will be in the Very Distant Cousins section.)
As a great personal favor to me, my publisher will be releasing The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens on my daughter’s twenty-ninth birthday, April 14, 2015. They had to bump two James Patterson books to other dates (meaning some days in 2015 will see the release of four Patterson books) and cancel a J. K. Rowling (one that she wrote under the pseudonym James Patterson) but Little, Brown Young Readers went to the trouble to rearrange its calendar to make the April 14th release date possible, and I’m grateful.
April 14th is an auspicious day.
As my daughter is always quick to remind me, April 14th is the day Lincoln was shot, and the day the Titanic struck the iceberg. But, as I always remind her, Lincoln died on the 15th, and the Titanic sank on the 15th, so the 14th really isn’t all that bad. It’s just a day when trouble tends to get started.
April 14th is also the day the Donner Party departed Springfield, Illinois, bound for California with an insufficient number of picnic baskets.
So all in all, April 14th is the perfect day for the debut of one of my books.
(It’s certainly a great day to celebrate the birth of my beautiful daughter.)