Author Archives: jcgeiger
That guy eating waffles with my daughter? He’s a rock star. And he helped inspire The Great Big One. (If you’re wondering about the whole liner notes concept, more here.) Went down like this: Emily and I drifted into Thinking Tree Spirits on a random date. Nice vibe, mellow inside. Felt just like a Tuesday. One of the few guys in the place, cozied up in a corner, pulled out his guitar and the whole room went still. A player with the kind of talent that grabs hold of the room like it’s got a handle on it. The song was Young’s “Harvest Moon” – you could feel the harmonics buzz in your chest. Em and I listened, stared at each other, and cried. Alright — this just happens sometimes when we actually have a date. But that particular Cocktail of Tears was one part romance, two parts gin, three parts Matt Hopper. Never had been a huge fan on Neil Young, or that song. Something about his playing cracked the tune wide open and made me fall in love with it forever. At the end of the set, Em and I introduced ourselves. Within minutes, Matt told me something like – “I locked myself in a cabin in Alaska and did nothing but spin Neil Young tunes and play guitar for a month.” We loved him immediately. He’s like that. I gave him a copy of my 1st novel, then a few weeks later, texted him and asked if we could be friends. (For real. I’m still like a third grader passing notes.) Since then, The Hop has blown into town now again for a No Shame show or a wild steampunk barn party. My daughter fell in love with him over breakfast at Off the Waffle. I’ve rocked out to Hopper on road trips, manic cooking adventures, garage cleaning sprees, and late night writing sessions. His renditions of “Harvest Moon” and “False Alarm” transformed pivotal sections of my novel. I can’t honestly say what the book would be like without him. All this, and the guy is on tour in the Pacific Northwest RIGHT NOW!!! Go if you can. You’ll be inspired. You might even get a book out of it. ❤️
That guy eating waffles with my daughter? He’s a rock star. And he helped inspire The Great Big One.
(If you’re wondering about the whole liner notes concept, more here.)
Went down like this: Emily and I drifted into Thinking Tree Spirits on a random date. Nice vibe, mellow inside. Felt just like a Tuesday. One of the few guys in the place, cozied up in a corner, pulled out his guitar and the whole room went still. A player with the kind of talent that grabs hold of the room like it’s got a handle on it. The song was Young’s “Harvest Moon” – you could feel the harmonics buzz in your chest. Em and I listened, stared at each other, and cried. Alright — this just happens sometimes when we actually have a date. But that particular Cocktail of Tears was one part romance, two parts gin, three parts Matt Hopper.
Never had been a huge fan on Neil Young, or that song. Something about his playing cracked the tune wide open and made me fall in love with it forever. At the end of the set, Em and I introduced ourselves.
Within minutes, Matt told me something like – “I locked myself in a cabin in Alaska and did nothing but spin Neil Young tunes and play guitar for a month.” We loved him immediately. He’s like that. I gave him a copy of my 1st novel, then a few weeks later, texted him and asked if we could be friends. (For real. I’m still like a third grader passing notes.)
Since then, The Hop has blown into town now again for a No Shame show or a wild steampunk barn party. My daughter fell in love with him over breakfast at Off the Waffle. I’ve rocked out to Hopper on road trips, manic cooking adventures, garage cleaning sprees, and late night writing sessions. His renditions of “Harvest Moon” and “False Alarm” transformed pivotal sections of my novel. I can’t honestly say what the book would be like without him.
All this, and the guy is on tour in the Pacific Northwest RIGHT NOW!!! Go if you can. You’ll be inspired. You might even get a book out of it. ❤️
OFFICIAL SESSION LINK HERE: https://literary-arts.org/event/pbf-geiger-sallah/
Thrilled to announce I’ll be an in-person guest at the Portland Book Festival on Nov. 13, in conversation with Alissa Sallah and Kate Ristau on the topic of Stories of Friendship, Growing Older, and Growing Apart. Just got a copy of Alissa’s book. My son is heavy into anime right now and I felt — in a subtle nod — the addition of a few Cool Points to the Dad column when I lay WEEABOO on the table. Can’t wait to dive in. There will be a 15 minute Q&A and book signing afterward, solid Covid precautions taken. I really can’t wait to see real readers and real writers gathered together and not through a screen. Hope you can make it!
I’ve always loved liner notes. You know — the lyrics, photos, and messages included in the packaging for CDs, tapes, and records. Back in the day, part of questing for an album was seeing what the cover art looked like under the shrink wrap, how it would unfold in a paper accordion for cassette tapes; CDs had cool little booklets. I remember going through my dad’s record collection and how enormous the notes seemed – giant treasure maps, canvasses for lost art, tour photos, abstractions. I remember Thick As a Brick. The Wall. August and Everything After – a cover with faded cursive lyrics to a song that didn’t even make it onto the album. What a mystery! I loved listening straight through for the first time, flipping pages. You could feel the whole mythos of the work swirling, sinking in.
After being steeped in music for The Great Big One, I thought: What about liner notes for a book? Sure, the book already exists in print — but to me, liner notes were always about the space just outside the circumference of the main artistic product. Everything that couldn’t quite make it into the book or onto the album. Pictures, inspiration, research, anecdotes, drawings, mysteries. Since books are something we can already hold and turn the pages for, maybe liner notes could be digital.
I’m going to give it a try. I’m even going to give it a hashtag, so if this happens to be a social media project I actually manage to follow through with, one day I can type #thegreatbigone #linernotes and have a whole collection of videos, photos, deleted scenes and sections, everything surrounding a book that was – for several years – roughly the size of my life.
You found it.
Your chance to collect a free, limited-edition mixtape.
Fill out the form while supplies last and this sweet tape is YOURS.
THE GREAT BIG ONE – MIXTAPE TRAILER
The Great Big Mixtape – FAQs
What is this tape exactly?
The tape is a simulation of a late-night radio broadcast inspired by The Great Big One. There are clues embedded in the songs, lyrics, and static pointing the way to bookstores where we’ve hidden various treasures. There is a very limited run of tapes, all made possible through the generosity of contributing artists who are my musical heroes.
How can I get the tape?
You can buy the book at an independent bookstore and present proof of purchase through this website. If you do – while supplies last – we will mail you a tape. You may also seek the cassette at independent bookstores regardless of whether you buy the book. There will be some floating out there in the world, but you’ll have to get lucky.
What’s an independent bookseller?
Here’s a good store locator, but it’s not exhaustive. Local chains are fine.
Can I buy this tape?
Rock and roll is not for sale and neither is the mixtape. Most listed artists contributed their music for free.
Are you making money on this tape?
No. This is a limited, self-financed project. Shipping, production, and cassette tape costs stacked against hardback royalties will show you, at a glance, why I become an author instead of an actuary.
Publishing a book is a rare event. I wanted to have fun with it. It was also a chance to reach out to some of my favorite artists in the world and say thank you, and ask if they’d like to collaborate on something. I’ve also enjoyed learning about video editing, sound engineering, and other media for storytelling.
When will I get the tape?
Once all tapes have been claimed, they will be shipped at the same time. Given delays in materials, shipping, and other known limitations, we cannot guarantee a ship date, nor respond to inquiries about timing. Updates will be sent via email & occasionally posted at this site.
Which songs are on the tape?
It’s a surprise. Like a late night radio broadcast.
Which songs are rare and unreleased?
Part of the surprise.
Who is that person on the tape?! Whose voice is that!??
Probably someone super famous.
Will there be another soundtrack or opportunity to get a tape?
It’s possible. The project was a lot of fun, and there’s a chance we’ll pursue a sequel.
How about a concert with all the bands on the tape? Can we do that?
It would be a dream come true.
Friends, it’s been a while.
I could lash all my apologies together like a raft and try to paddle the gulf, but I think I’ll just jump right in where we left off.
I finished another draft of my book. If you know me in casual life, that’s probably what I say every time you see me. The other night, I went out to celebrate and friends asked me: Is this your third book? Fourth? No, no. Still the second. They said — I thought we already celebrated this book? Yes. Submitting a book is like throwing a very large boomerang at New York City. You hope when it comes wheeling back it’s not so heavy with corrections it takes your head off.
Most people think of publishing as a HIT SEND kind of situation. It’s really more of a RETURN TO SENDER situation.
You send. You celebrate. Later, in the quiet, ears ringing from the popping of corks, you lie alone. You listen for your draft out there, in the wild. You cup hand to ear, wondering — how did that boomerang land out there in the big city?
What you hear is as quiet as wind whispering through cedars.
When the draft arrives, you just keep throwing it back at New York until it finally returns to you as a bound book. This is your final RETURN TO SENDER moment. This does not mean your novel is properly finished. It just means your publisher is done helping you fix this story.
I celebrate every toss of the boomerang. For me, celebration is essential to the practice of writing. Progress with a book can be so intangible, sometimes you must build yourself a trophy out of beer cans. Climb on your desk and call it Kilimanjaro. Shout your private achievements to the ceiling fan.
You will wonder, aloud and alone, if the book will be successful. You will wonder, aloud and alone, what success is. Whether you choose to measure success with money or peer recognition, you’ll eventually learn – as George Saunders once stated – “success is a mountain that grows as you climb it.”
That’s good, isn’t it? Success is a mountain that grows as you climb it.
I’m just wrapping up my second book, which comes with its own specific challenges. While writing a second novel, you may recall every disappointing second album a band ever released. But it would be a mistake to dwell on these albums. Or listen to them.
Anne Lamott wrote: “Avoid looking at your own publication in the mirror.” She also said:
“Sometime later you’ll find yourself at work on, maybe really into, another book, and once again you figure out that the real payoff is the writing itself, that a day when you have gotten your work done is a good day, that total dedication is the point.”
Ah, it’s true. It’s so true I want to greet Anne Lamott at an airport, running with balloons.
It’s a lot of emotional work to write a book. You get wrung out, leaning into that computer screen, changing that hyphen to an ellipsis and then to a period and no, back to the hyphen and all the while beating your heart against the page. A lot of crying. It makes me think what’s called “a good cry” is somewhat defined by the duration of the crying. I’m healthiest writing about 3-4 hours a day. For this book, some days were significantly longer. Eight hours. Ten.
If I work too hard, for too long, I get arrhythmia. Tachycardia of the brain.
When I finished the latest draft, I didn’t know how to stop. My whole body had readjusted to a new schedule of endless working, heightened emotions. Hummingbird heart. Stay up late, wake up early. Is this book good? Is this book done? Keep writing. Keep worrying. Finally, very late one night, I hit send. Submitted the book. Shipped off. Gone. I still couldn’t convince my brain to stop.
The hamster had left the wheel. But the wheel was still spinning.
I needed a reset. My family and I flew back to the Midwest during winter break. This is a DSM-recognized sign of temporary mental illness, flying to Illinois in January.
In Illinois, I did not work. I FORCED myself to not work and it was like a Trainspotting detox situation but instead of creamed corn and a bedpan I had my mom’s deviled eggs and endless appetizers and the baby did not crawl on the ceiling but just on the ground. I played video games. Bizarrely, watched TV. I taught my son to play Magic the Gathering.
All the while, body and mind slowly remembering – there are other ways. Different tempos, paces, patterns of breathing. Other worlds to move through.
My hometown felt like a very different world. A real Midwestern Main Street with awnings and a barber pole. People who owned shovels and might get into a car to drive the distance of one small city block. It’s so cold, maybe you agree to get in the car to drive one small city block. Corn stalks shrunk to stubble in winter fields. Gray horizons and the white-noise rush of highway traffic. Good handshakes. Vegetables, a pale shade of green. TV in the background like flashing wallpaper.
I played cards. Ate. Ran on a treadmill so I could eat more.
It worked. I slept. Reset. Detoxed. My last day in town, I printed my book in a hotel lobby, took it to my favorite 24-hour truck stop, and read it like the work of a stranger. I could see what needed to be fixed. And when I went home to Oregon to fix it, the final draft felt like a gift.
That had never happened before. It felt like dessert.
Then, just days ago, I was seized by epiphanic, spontaneous joy. Just sitting at my desk – book not quite done, but getting there, and the sun lanced through the clouds and my kids were at school just an hour from pickup and suddenly the reality of life settled around me – the trees, that little spot of sun, kids to pick up, a worthy project to labor on. The day stretched out like a runway. It all felt laid out like a beautiful banquet. I smiled and smiled and wrote in Sharpie on white paper:
YOU HAVE ONLY THIS WHOLE, BEAUTIFUL LIFE.
All around my office, if you look, you will find bold black Sharpie declarations smattering the room, but that’s one of my very favorites. I’m staring at it now. I believe it, and hope you believe it and chase it and can feel some of your days like runways, some of your existence like a banquet, and I’ve missed being in touch, but I’m back.
It’s good to be back. Thank you for reading. If you have time, drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing out there!
Just finished a big project. Afterward, I lay with my back on the floor and stared up at the ceiling and considered – WOW. The world remains intact. Still carpet. Still a popcorn ceiling and the lingering smell of chicken for dinner. Right in front of me, another human face. Family! Friends! This, after weeks of Massive Writing Days — when my eyes felt stretched and over-big, doing things like rubbing my face and popping Starlight Mints and exceeding recommended caffeine levels. At all times, the book danced on the backs of my eyelids like REM sleep.
I did not, during this period, send many emails. I did not make social media posts. Accordingly, I was needled by the impish cousin of guilt — The ShouldBe. Whispering: Psssst, you shouldbe better at scheduled updates. You shouldbe sharing clever posts about yourself. Shoulbe tweeting, streaming, marketing — I’ve listened to The ShouldBe for years. But I’m starting to disagree.
I’ve had torrents of words rushing through me lately, so I’m going to lean on the words of someone else. I’d like to borrow from Mary Oliver on the nature of art and creative work. This passage comes from her final book of essays, Upstream:
There is a notion that creative people are absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true (. . . ) It is six a.m. and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
Her words. I love and feel them ring true. I am glad she missed the meeting and burned the beans to bring them into the world. A hundred meals without mustard. A thousand emails unsent.
I will post more messages. I have a vague idea I’d like to repost abbreviated versions of my mailing list letters ever Wednesday or maybe every Sunday? I will try, but I am primarily a humble servant of The Vision. So if you do not find an update here — rejoice.
P.S. (Extended version of this message originally sent to email subscribers– embark here.)