Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Twiller Plot Summary

Twiller plot summary:

Early June - a man comes to consciousness in the Colorado mountains. He suffers from a head wound, and amnesia. Like his brain, his cell phone only partly works: it can send twitters, but audio is broken. He begins twittering his discoveries, and self-discoveries.

Between his toes – specifically, between his big toe and the one next to it – he feels pain. He finds there a tiny pin stuck between them, tiny but deep. Taped around the pin is a piece of paper. On the piece of paper is written: Abraham.

He hitchhikes his way down the mountains. At one point, a couple pull over to pick him up. But when the woman in the passenger seat sees him, she points and screams to her husband: “it’s the man from the news.” They speed off. Bewildered, he continues on.

At a small mountain town, he enters gas station food mart to spend last $10 on food. A slender redhead approaches him says: Come with me! She seems to know him but drives her SUV in silence. He falls asleep in car. Finally, her first words to him are: “liar.” The car is stopped. She has a knife to his throat. “Killer,” she says. He suppresses a violent urge to grab the knife. There is much anger and violence in him.

She points him out of the car. He exits and finds himself at a bus station in Steamboat Springs, Colo. In his pocket, he finds a one-way bus ticket to San Francisco, $100, and a piece of paper on which the word “Twirlers” is written in blue pen.

The bus ride permits and provokes memories: a father who was a pilot, mother – he seems to remember – who hacked computers, sister who played soccer and had anger. And visions of something else, or someone else, with the name Palfrey. It keeps nagging at him. What might it mean?

Outside Reno, in an Internet café, he looks up Palfrey. He finds: Deborah Jean Palfrey. The DC Madam. The dead DC Madam. He shivers with recognition, but vague recognition. He’s involved with something bad.

He arrives in San Francisco, consumed with the name Palfrey and whatever dangerous memory it might represent. In San Fran, he visits another net café. He looks up the name “Twirlers,” which is the word from the piece of paper he received in Colorado. It is the name of a strip club.

That night, at a hotel, someone slips a note under his door. It reads: “Abe.” He wonders is “Abe” the same as “Abraham,” the man from between his toes? Is Abe connected to the dead DC Madam?

Then the drinking starts. He remembers something about himself: he likes cheap gin. And he begins binging on it. Particularly as his memories start to return, he drinks more and more heavily – to the point of puking and passing out. He wakes up the next morning after an extreme bender.

The next night, he goes to Twirlers, aiming for find Abe, or who knows what. Instead, he meets a star-tattooed stripper named Sarah. She seems to take a shine to him. Next thing he knows, he’s at her apartment, having sex. And this is how he learns his name. She screams it: Lev. She must have known him earlier. She admits as much; says some weeks earlier, he’d been in the club asking about Abe.

Sarah, a single mom with a deadbeat ex-husband, gives Lev $100 and sends him on his way. He spends it on booze as memories surface. One of them is vibrant: he remembers a meeting on the 15th floor of San Francisco’s Transamerica building.

He goes to the building, and 15th floor. It is the offices of Hawl and Ile, a law firm specializing on political lobbying. “Hawl,” the lead partner is “Abraham Hawl.”

He returns to Sarah the Stripper’s house to demand answers. Initially, they have sex, and he starts drinking. He gets piss drunk and she boots him from the house at dawn. He wakes up on the street. He drinks more. Wakes up in his own puke. He is an addict. Drinks more. Returns to her apartment a few days later. He finds it ransacked and Sarah gone. He searches the place. Under a floorboard, he finds a picture of he and Sarah that looks about two years old. So he did know her. And he finds a clipping of a news story from the Aspen Times. It names him as the suspect in the murder of a high-end prostitute named “Shelalah.” It gives his full name: Lev Kind. There is one more thing: a pass to the upcoming Democratic National Convention. The name on the pass is Tim Havney.

Lev visits Transamerica building. He finds that Abe Hawl has headed to Colorado, where his firm has an office and where he is headed for the Democratic National Convention. Lev buys a bus ticket. He’s drunk, angry, confused, and heading into the eye of the storm.

On the bus ride, a new memory surfaces – the spinning of wheels and roads have a way of bringing back his memories. He keeps seeing a hospital, an operation or surgical procedure – and he’s in the middle of it. This image haunts him, along with Palfrey, and Abraham. What does it add up to?

In Salt Lake, he returns from a bender to find a natty Joseph Aboud suit and $500 in his motel 6. He starts to wonder: are twitter followers helping him? Are any even following his story? How many?

Many minor details and partial memories later -- particularly of the surgical procedure -- he winds up in Aspen. He goes looking for evidence of a dead hooker named Shelalah and how he might be involved with her. His hazy memories direct him first to a bar called Cooper Street. During two days of binging there, he notices a guy with a ponytail is eyeing him – wondering if maybe he recognizes Lev. But Lev is in his natty suit and his head is shaved. He’s a different man from before – or looks like it. Eventually, Lev follows the man to a doorway in an alley. Later, Lev returns to find the doorway is an entrance to a high-end massage parlor. He makes an appointment to return.

His appointment with Stacy – another S-named hooker – begets not sex, but information: Shelalah was a mom with two kids, 92 credits toward college graduation, and a great capacity to make money playing Texas Hold-Em. He finds her headstone in the Aspen cemetery. This is whom he has supposedly killed.

And, suddenly, he’s arrested for the murder. The hooker named Stacy seduces him to her house, then she calls the cops. He’s taken into custody while sleeping off a gin bender. For a few days, Stacy gets the twittering phone. A novice in the medium, she tells the story from her perspective for a few days. Among her revelations: that the cops charge Lev with murder because they have critical evidence: Lev’s blood is on the knife that killed Shelalah.

Then Lev escapes jail.

How he does so is unclear. All that is clear to Stacy is that he shows up at her house, and she – with him watching her menacingly – twitters what she believes to be her last words. We do not know what happens to her, but only that Lev has gotten his phone back. He has a revelation and confession: There is a killer inside me – he writes – but it is not me. It is the mutant that is alive in me.

He heads to the Democratic National Convention

There, he’s not sure what to look for. At one of the elite parties his all-access convention pass allows him into, he bellies up to the bar. He is inspired by the political rhetoric and tries to do something novel and positive: not drink. He gets a seltzer water, and spies the crowd. A beautiful blonde woman catches his eye. She and Lev know he each other. She is talking to two men that he realizes from context are senators. He walks close to the three of them and inhales her Oscar de La Rente and his shocked with a vision of her with bloody hands. Before he can talk to her, she disappears in the crowd. He starts binging.

Then in the crowd, he sees Abe Hawl. He follows Hawl to Denver’s swanky Brown Palace Hotel. Or, at least, that’s what he determines the next morning, when he wakes up from a major bender in an alley near the hotel. He stakes out the hotel. Later in the day – hours before Obama’s speech – he sees Hawl exit the side of the building into a limo. With him is the blonde woman with the killer perfume.

He manages to follow them to mile-high stadium for Obama’s speech. And one piece of the puzzle starts to come together. The surgical procedure that has been nagging at him was a transplant. Lev realizes and remembers he has in the last few years gotten cancer and required a bone marrow transplant. The donor was Abe Hawl. To what end?

At mile-high stadium, he makes a beeline to Hawl for answers. When he gets close, Hawl’s eyes widen with fear and recognition. Hawl’s strongmen push Lev to the ground, and Hawl disappears in the crowd.

Lev goes to a bar to drink. He feels a hand in his pocket. He looks to find the backside of someone he recognizes from earlier in the story: it’s the redhead who picked him up in the mountains. She too – like others in this tale – eludes him in a crowd chase. But she has left him something in his pocket: a note that says “they’ll kill you,” and a pass to the Republican National Convention.

He gets on a busy to Minnesota. While en route to St. Paul, the bus takes a pit stop in Sioux Falls, SD. Lev gets off the bus to pee. When he returns, he finds a thin dossier on his seat. In it, are the names of 12 senators – Five Democrat and Seven Republican, along with names and dates of meetings. And beside each meeting is the ratio of the price of the US dollar to the Chinese Yuan.

Nat begins to suspect that in addition to the group of hookers and political operatives involved in a conspiracy, there are a handful of twitterers who are helping him along by leaving him assistance and pieces of evidence.

Republican National Convention ahead.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Michelle Richmond surprise guest reading

for those wondering how to do a book reading the right, see the video of the book launch (and surprise guest) of Michelle Richmond's tremendous new book: No One You Know

And Now for Something Completely Different

Article in Editor and Publisher today about Rudy Park, the comic strip I pen under the name Theron Heir:


Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Man Who Freed Himself From Email

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cody's Closing - Event cancelled

A cruddy day for bookstore lovers. The august Cody's Books is closing its doors, effective immediately. The company sent out a press release late last night saying the closure is to due financial distress.

I will obviously not be reading there on Monday night. I will show up at the store in case some readers don't get the message. We can get a beer and mourn the passing.

This is what Cody's said:

Dear Colleagues and Friends, We have one or more author events scheduled with you between this coming week and into November 2008 which must be canceled immediately. We've just received word that IBC Publishing, Cody's parent company, is closing our store, effective today, after having determined after years of financial distress that Cody's can no longer continue as a viable business in its present state. Needless to say, this is one of the most difficult times that our company has experienced and the most difficult note I've ever written; canceling any author event is personally heartbreaking for me and my staff especially at the last-minute like this. I am exceedingly sorry for the significant inconvenience and disappointment, as well as for this general broadcast in lieu of an individual note.

I have been so incredibly appreciative of working with you to bring writers and readers together, and remain more grateful than I can say for your support and belief in Cody's over so many years. I've more than my fair share of spectacular memories, thanks to you and your authors.
We are not entirely sure what's ahead, but I hope our paths will cross sometime down the road when the flames subside. My personal contact info: phone: 510-845-6575; email:

If you have any further questions or concerns about Cody's closing,please contact Mindy Galoob, Cody's General Manager at 510-965-5846 With thanks and heartfelt regards,Melissa 2201 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94704 BERKELEY'S CODY'S BOOKS CLOSES AFTER 52 YEARS Berkeley CA, June 20, 2008 –After 52 years, Cody's Books will shut its doors effective June 20, 2008. The Berkeley bookstore has been a beacon to readers and writers throughout the nation and across the world. Founded by Fred and Pat Cody in 1956, Cody's has been a Berkeley institution and a pioneer in the book business, helping to establish such innovations as quality paperbacks and in-store author readings. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Cody's was a landmark of the Free Speech movement and was a home away from home for innumerable authors, poets and readers. The Board of Directors of Cody's Books made this difficult decision after years of financial distress and declining sales. According to Cody's president, Hiroshi Kagawa, "[It] is a heartbreaking moment…in the spring of 2005 when I learned about the financial crisis facing Cody's, I was excited to save the store from bankruptcy. Unfortunately, my current business is not strong enough or rich enough to support Cody's. Of course, the store has been suffering from low sales and the deficit exceeds our ability to service it." "When I met Cody's 25 years ago, I was a freelance journalist, enraptured by its books and atmosphere. It means so much to me and I apologize to the people who have supported Cody's for not being able to keep this landmark independent bookstore open. Cody's is my treasure and more than that, Cody's is a real friend of Berkeley community and will be missed." Cody's would like to thank all of our loyal customers for their years of patronage. For further information contact: Mindy Galoob, General Manager at

Friday, June 20, 2008

Attend Hooked reading- WIN BRAND NEW CAR!

Friends, readers, patrons of Cody's in Berkeley and Book Passage in Corte Madera.

If the fates and fortunes align, we’ll cross paths next week at Cody's on Monday, or Book Passage on Wednesday. I’ll be there both nights around 7, reading from “Hooked." It should be a lot of fun -- replete with a brief reading, questions and answers, revelations about the tradecraft, personally embarrassing anecdotes, and, then, at the end, someone in the audience will, at random, receive a brand new Honda Civic.

It’s going to have everything too: an eight-speaker stereo, leather seats, an all-electric power system, a built-in waffle iron. It’ll be the most extraordinary reading.

So, that’s it, then. I’ll see you there? Right around 7. Please dress accordingly.

I should add one thing. The part about the free car is absolutely not true. A complete lie. I don’t know why I said that. No car. Also, I’m so ashamed, no waffle iron. Candidly, I’m not even sure if there will be snacks at the event.

I’m sorry. I really blew it this time. I hope you weren’t getting your hopes up and picking out dashboard colors for the compact car you will absolutely not be winning. It was a childish come on. Regrettable in every way. But, and this part I assure you is true: there was a reason I did it. I can see that clearly now. I blame The Terror.

Have you heard of The Terror? Has a friend/relative/loved one who is a writer explained the writing craft’s One Truly Great Horrifying Terror?

Well, there is one. One thing that gets a writer quivering even more than writer’s block or “why isn’t my agent calling me back within five minutes” syndrome. The one truly great terror takes place the five minutes before a book reading. The Terror goes like this: THIS BOOKSTORE IS EMPTY AND THE ONLY PERSON WHO IS ATTENDING THIS BOOK READING IS MY WIFE AND SHE’S ALREADY HEARD ALL MY JOKES!

That’s The Terror. It’s universal for writers, or so I’ve heard. For many of us, the fear of an empty book reading is worse than the fear of mortal disease, chiefly but not exclusively because if you get a mortal illness your wife will at least keep laughing at your old jokes (as a complete digression, for you Marin residents who might attend the book reading, Severe Biker’s Rash does not count as a mortal illness, though it might be painful and benefit from a salve).

So, it was to thwart The Terror that I made up the thing about the free car. And the built-in waffle iron. I just wanted to try to get you to show up. But, if you do, despite my childish false promises, I genuinely assure you that we will have a lively discussion, a brief but scintillating reading, and, afterwards, I will use my secret powers to heal all of your illnesses and make you filthy rich.

So that’s it. See you next week. 7ish. What? What’d I say?

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addiction - it's no longer just for deviants

here's a story about actual medical diagnosis for tech addiction. you may now commence your 12 steps (the first step is admitting you have a modem...)

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

compulsive cell phone talking --- vegas style

interesting article from on cell phone addiction with one analyst comparing the lure of constant chatter to gambling.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Brian Lam, Gizmodo Editor, The Inaugural Short Attention Span Interview

Today marks the first in a series of "Short Attention Span Interviews." Quick discussions with people who make news, thinkers, leaders, people with opinions, or who can fake it. The topic will generally be the way technology is impacting us, changing us, rewiring us, seducing us, working for us, and so forth.

We are privileged today to have as our guest Brian Lam, editor of Gizmodo ( The site, one of the most viewed on the Internet, is in a fierce battle to be the premier place to find the latest news about new gadgets. The pace at which they gather and present news is formidable.

Brian's title should be FEO - frenetic executive officer. The guy is going non-stop, keeping either one step ahead of or one step behind the technology his site describes. (he's also a thai boxer, which would make for a dangerous combination but he's a darn nice fellow).

A bit more about Brian in this story I wrote about the Always On Culture:

And, herewith, in his own words, the short-attention span interview with Brian Lam:

What's more addictive: cheese popcorn, or your iPhone (or whatever phone you use)? Compare and contrast (use a different snack food if you'd prefer)

A: iPhone gets a lot more attention than it should, I imagine. I've developed strategies to be a socially functional iPhone user, though. That means that I'll be at a dinner party and mention some wacky youtube video, to the amazement of the crowd. When people say they haven't seen it, I ask if they want me to load it up on my iPhone. Same thing for restaurant decisions, etc. I'd say that there is some counterintuitive logic here about the iPhone helping bring people together, but honestly, I do it sometimes just so I can play with a gadget. So, socially, I am not a tech addict. I want people to hang out with, I'll do that. But when it comes to finding news, I always feel like i'm running through a field of flowers and looking for the nicest ones to pick. Or something like that.

Q: Are human beings evolving to cope with the rapid onslought of digital stimulation? how?

A: I'd say that the brain can comprehend data as fast as we can absorb it by sight, generally, even multiple sources at once. I tried an experiment watching TV and playing video games at once, using two side-by-side TVs, and it worked for slower TV or slower video games. And we can spit out information faster than we can write or speak or type, so there's a limitation there. But the biggest change is that people can multitask a lot better than they could before, or at least they have the opportunities to do so, which I believe contributes to the attention deficit we've got going on in today's world.

Q: Why do you think consumers of news and information like to be updated as soon as possible on the latest developments?

A: I'm not sure. From personal experience, it's a nice feeling to be in the know. I think that a lot of our readers keep up out of extreme interest in the subject, but I bet there's a Pavlovian response to hitting refresh and getting a new nugget of information every 20 minutes.

Q: When it comes to your gadgets, what's the difference between being entertained and informed and being addicted? How do you know when you've crossed the thresshold?

A: I'm actually not addicted to my gadgets. I'm addicted to the information stream they provide. I love my job, and anything that helps me talk to my team of writers and editors across the globe is something I use with extreme frequency in an unhealthy way, some would say. I say that the online world I live in, like a socially awkward teenager playing world of warcraft, is a lot more satisfying and interesting than downing beers at the local pub or walking through the park. Offline, everything is slow motion and painful, by relative terms. For the record, i don't twitter or do much facebooking or anything else. I'm all about IM and email and any sort of online media I can find.

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