October 4, 2005

gods in Vases with Frosting

I had a great speaking engagement on Sunday, talking to the Friends of the Library back in Pensacola, Florida, the town where I spent the bulk of my childhood. You never know how things will go when you hit your old stomping grounds. You know, the whole "nothing good can come out of Nazareth" syndrome. But it was good. It was VERY good. And look, they had these very cool centerpieces made out of sugar cookies shaped like some of the gods of Alabama. For those not in the know, the first sentences of gods is "There are gods in Alabama; Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus."

So they made god cookies and stuck them on skewers and then embedded the skewers in vases filled with decorative stones---charming. I tried to squelch myself, but was unable to resist asking where the bosom-shaped cookies were...


This book I am working on now may end up being set in Pensacola, if David can live there and have the career I want him to have. Research is veryveryvery stupid and boring, except for the part where you get to talk to cops. DIGRESSION: At a garden party thrown by my friend Barbara, I made the useful aquaintance of a Really For True Homicide Detective, and he is helping me plan a couple of upcoming (and most assuredly fictional) murders. Talking to him was a LOT more fun than figuring out David's place in corporate America---now THAT is deadly.

Here's a weird thing about writing novels: It's going to take me SEVERAL HOURS to work out this secondary character's career path and backstory. I'll know the job David started in and what his education is and where he got the whatever kinds of degrees he needs and how he went from one job to the next, all to end up where I want him to be at the start of the book, and then somewhere in the book there will be MAYBE two sentences or four words or nothing indicating all this backstory, but I have to get it all straight in my head, or I promise you on your end, the reading-the-book end, you won't find him to be a believable whatever-his-job-ends-up-being. And if he does get two sentences of backstory, they are more likely to come off authoritative and seamless if I've put the work in now, so HOPEFULLYyou won't even especially notice them, or worse, stop and go, WAIT A SEC HOW COME HE....

SO, here I am, hip deep in Corporate America and calling my Dad and my friend Jill (who has a corporate husbad) and saying , "Okay, so give me some google terms....what do you call the kind of job you might have if you..." etc etc. The more I research, the more often I fall to my knees and cry out to heaven, THANK YOU! THANK YOU LORD! YOU WHO IN YOUR INFINITE MERCY AND WISDOM DID NOT ACTIVATE THE PIECE OF MY BRAIN THAT MAKES PEOPLE GOOD AT BEING STATICIANS OR ECONOMISTS OR FUTURISTS OR BROKERAGERS OR (IN MY CASE) BROKERAGETTES OR WHATEVER THE HECK DAVID ENDS UP BEING, AND FOR THE RECORD LORD, I DO NOT EVEN REGRET NOT GETTING TO GO TO STANFORD OR WHATEVER UNIVERSITY MY RESEARCH WILL SHOW CRANKS OUT PRIME ECONOMISTS OR WHATEVER DAVID IS, JUST THANKS! THANKS FOR LEAVING THAT BRAIN PIECE JUST AS DEAD AS A LITTLE GRAY WRINKLY DROWNED STONE COLD POND MOUSY. Yeah, it's a convoluted prayer, but it's HEARTFELT. Just reading about what a statistician does makes me want to drown myself right alongside my metaphorical brain rodent.

It is more fun to talk to COPS! I like my research to have killing in it. As long as I don't think about it too hard. It's weird to me to think this is an actual homicide detective who investigates actual homicides right here in rural-ish Georgia. That seems so FICTIONAL to me, so outside the realm of the polite world I inhabit. The one where, you know, we do not kill other people. Even when they make us very very angry or are going to cost us a lot of money or cheat on us or whatever else drives people to kill other people. I like my killing sprees absolutely made up. In real life, I catch spiders and tote them outside, and think the world would be a better place if we all did. So when I talked to the cop, I kept it light, VERY MUCH in the realm of the theoretical. He makes a great first impression --- He seems both balanced and brave to do what he does, and also smart, and understated. He's not much older than me, but he kinda reminded me of my dad. His job would put me in the nervous hospital, though. Real life-wise, I would much rather be a Statitician.

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Posted by joshilyn at October 4, 2005 10:14 AM

You forever and always crack me up, and I only know you in cyber abstentia.

I agree back story is absolutely everything. It is the unseen backbone of the literary world. Unfortunately, not all authors are as adept at creating a character, nor do they develope the backstory that is so vital to a believable character and therefore storyline. We are the beneficiaries of your backstory detectiveness.

Ah, it is so heavenly to know there is more long worded Joss coming our way (albeit, way way down the pike - but anticipation is SOOOOO SWEET!)

Posted by: Cele at October 4, 2005 11:56 AM

LOL! Yeah, the novel Iw ill write one day (not the YA stuff but the novel in my head) is about a Hittite woman from Judges Chapter 4 (I want to write Biblical fiction) but all that reasearch to KNOW Jewish culture, etc... It scares me spitless.

Posted by: Heather at October 4, 2005 12:25 PM

PS yeah, I was looking for the boobie cookie picture. ;)

Posted by: Heather at October 4, 2005 1:41 PM

Anybody that totes spiders outside instead of bringing a well deserved death to them and saves newts must have a few kick ass stories pent up inside of them.

Can't wait to see your new read!

Posted by: Chickie at October 4, 2005 1:47 PM

It would be my deepest pleasure to find a way to come up with boobie cookies for you. Just say the word!

Let Me Tell You More About My Vagina

Posted by: Mir at October 4, 2005 5:53 PM

Oh, yes. I have these character bible worksheets that I use sometimes when I'm trying to flesh out characters. The worksheet asks like 8,000 random questions, but I find it helpful--particularly when I'm 60,000 words in and have forgotten what my secondary character looks like!

Posted by: Edgy Mama at October 4, 2005 8:45 PM

Boobie cookies would be easy! A round cookie, vaguely skin-colored frosting, a blog of pinker frosting in the middle and then Cinnamon Red Hot or something in the middle of that! I can't believe they didn't include those. Heh.

Posted by: DebR at October 5, 2005 8:39 AM

Man, I was so going to comment on DebR's boobie cookies, but I just can't do it. *blushing*
Backstory, now. Absolutely. The problem for me though is getting bogged down while trying to come up with the backstory, especially during world building for a future/spec fic setting. Rock on, Joss.

Posted by: David at October 5, 2005 10:08 AM

If you should by any chance need an economist to consult, my "Don" back in college was Frank Roosevelt (III), and he's a sweet man. Also know a Brit out here in Cali who designs advanced financial models that are so obscure his wife (very cool Venezuelan art history chick) doesn't know what the hell he's talking about when he comes home from work at night. He was my skeet advisor--lent me his shooting coach's book on the sport after hearing me blather about what I'd Googled on the topic and deciding (with heavy sigh, eye-rolling, and slow headshaking) that I didn't know my butt from a clay pigeon.

Boob cookies no doubt available from the Erotic Bakery in NYC, if they're still in action and should you ever be looking for something in that line (Xmas treats for the TW field sales reps?).

Not that I would actually ever have patronized such a questionable business establishment, of course, being myself a wholly virtuous, dewy-eyed, innocent, clean-minded chick. (Cha.) It's just that I had a friend years back who developed this not-entirely-sound-in-the-dating-strategy-arena predilection for having lifesize headless/limbless dark chocolate female torsos messengered to her newer beaux as thank-you gifts. I hope she's read "The Rules" since. Probably not.

Posted by: Cornelia Read at October 5, 2005 11:46 AM

Mmmm, chocolate...

Posted by: David at October 5, 2005 12:55 PM

That candy is so cute!

Posted by: cj at October 10, 2005 12:45 PM

hi! i love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: stephanie at October 11, 2005 12:32 PM