June 25, 2006

The State of the Mental Union Address

This is a nervous-making and exciting and weird time---gods in Alabama went out in paperback on the thirteenth, and my second book is toddling out on unsteady legs in hardback, SUPPOSEDLY on the 3rd of July, but it seems to be out already in at least a few stores. Watching reports of BETWEEN sightings come in, I feel like I have kicked out Something Big-Eyed, a blinking thing that is still damp with amniotic fluid, and yup, I've tossed it right into the wild while calling, "GOOD LUCK THERE WITH ALL THAT! HOPE THERE'S NO LIONS!" in a cheerful, warbling voice.

Because I have a new book, see, and Between isn't mine anymore. It's yours, if you want it.

I'm not saying the good stuff flows over me and la la, I am indifferent -- I am celebrating the great green foaming heck out of the good stuff. But you know, somewhere, out there, right now, some person who clearly has no soul is reading Between and not liking it. And I can't help that. I can only be more solidly grateful for the other ones, the ones who read it and the story speaks to them the way it spoke to me, and they speak back and reading becomes a conversation between them and the book. That's about the coolest thing in the universe.

gods in Alabama, now out in 500 formats is even LESS mine. I got a REALLY MAD e-mail last week, some distressed lady felt SO strongly about gods in Alabama that she had a need to search me out on the internet ---- OH! she'd been so mightily offended! Nothing would do but that she come poo in my flowerbox.

Here's her e-mail:

"This was, bar none, the most offensive book that I have ever read. The language and things she did. Shame on you!"

My response more than a year ago when gods first came out would probably have been to cry and write her a four page explanation of WHY the language is the way it is and WHY she did the things she did and say, PS that was a fragment, and ANYWAY I KNOW MY MOM IS PROUD OF ME, and then I would stew over it when she didn't write back, converted, and apologize for saying mean things about my best beloved.

My response now? Here in whatever month this is in a year I suspect of being 2006? I was going to say I deleted it, because that version makes me sound emotionally stable and mature, but let's be DEADLY honest here. In truth, I IMMEDIATELY hit reply, typed out, "I am so sorry. Perhaps you might like a sweet little book that my friend James wrote better. You can pick it up just about anywhere. It's called Deliverance." and then hovered, hand on mouse, cursor on send button, for a good 8 seconds while the still small voice of the Lord told me, DO NOT BE A SNOTBUCKET. THEN I deleted my reply and moved her e-mail to my BLOG THIS file, and I felt an emotion that can best be described as....meh. She didn't like the book. Oh well. My emotional reaction bobulator needle BARELY twitched. I don't think it got above "Vague Pique."

Which really, that needle shoots all the way Screaming Hysteria if my bare foot comes in contact with a Cat Present (aka Enormous Hairy Chunk of Dead Centipede.) So. Step In Bug Parts now rates higher than Have My Darling Book Spat Upon By Philistines.

Weird how that happens.

Meanwhile, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING (fondly referred to around here as TGWSS, which is pronounced "Tog-wiss") is MINE, and me and Tog-wiss, we like each other and we paddle around in each other's duck ponds and at lunch I give Tog-wiss half my bologna for half his tuna salad on pita. I am hugely proprietal about Tog-Wiss, so much so that I have not yet mailed chunks of him off to even my mother. Tog-wiss and me, we are busy doing things, and if you say ONE bad thing about him, I will send mean people to hurt you. See? It's like that.

(AN ASIDE TO THE DEAR PEOPLE IN MY WRITING GROUP: You are the exceptions to this rule and may speak of Tog-wiss' flaws and foibles so that he might be made more beautiful and shiny. I will not send people to hurt YOU. Much.)

My first publicist, Jennifer, told me this would happen, although at the time, dewey and terrified and aching with longing for RELEASE DAY when my book would enter the world and OH! GEPPETTO I would be a REAL BOY!!! to come, I didn't understand her. Here is what she said: "You put the book out, and then the reader speaks. You have to shut up then."

She was right. Tiny little brunette, that Jennifer, but she had the great big brains. She's not my publicist anymore because someone noticed the brains and promoted her to be grand empress of all publicists, or some equally odd title.

DIGRESSION: LORD but they have NONSENSICAL titles in publishing. LIKE a publisher is not JUST the one who publishes your book or the even the HOUSE that publishes your book, but also a highly advanced breed of editor. I think the titles are code, and you can't follow them unless you speak publishing. My editor got a nice promotion recently, from something like heart sparkle diamond editor to theresaholeinmybucketdearlizadearliza editor. SO CONGRATS to her and stuff, but I NEVER would have realized she had gotten a promotion at all if my agent hadn't pointed out the new title and explained what it meant. He, thank the angels, speaks publishing.

ANYWAY, back on point, we were on Jennifer, former publicist, big smarts, "The reader speaks." Now here I am on BOOK TWO, and I feel GOOD about that. Almost like a REAL writer. I surprise myself sometimes with all the real writer things I do in the most off hand and casual of contexts.

For ecxample, I was STUDIOUSLY SLAVING AWAY ON MY WORK IN PROGRESS LAST NIGHT (and here those who speak publishing will immediately understand that STUDIOUSLY SLAVING AWAY ON MY WORK IN PROGRESS is code for PLAYING AN ONLINE COMPUTER GAME WITH MY FRIEND JILL) and one of my fellow, um, "studiously slaving slavers" (aka GAMERS) asked in the voice chat what I do for a living. Without thinking, SERIOUSLY with NO THOUGHT at all, I said, all casual-like, "I'm a novelist."

IMMEDIATELY I got a Private Message from Jill saying "HAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA YOU DORK! YOU SAID THAT SO COOL! LIKE YOU JUST TROT AROUND BEING BEING A NOVELIST! OH! I'M A NOVELIST! I muted my mic so the other gamers couldn't hear me giggling like a fiend, and to Jill I typed, DUDE, LIKE, I KNOW, RIGHT?!!!????!1 111 one

On book two, I am finally kinda getting half a handle on what it means to put the book out there, and then the reader speaks, and I shut up. I am MAYBE 5K from a completed draft of TGWSS? And then it's the YUMMY CAKE part, right? AHHH DELICIOUS REVISIONS! I hate drafting. LOVE revisions. So I look forward to luxurious months of doing the part of the job I like best. But then, eventually, I'll sign off on some galleys, and Tog-wiss won't be mine anymore. To prep myself for that UNIMAGINABLE yet rapidly approaching someday, I already am cooking up the thing I am going to love best NEXT. It's a defense mechanism. After I am finished loving Tog-wiss in this proprietal and ownerly way, I am going to love a book that will have a title too secret and new to say yet out loud (we are at the FLIRTING stage, this book and I, we are ATTRACTED but we haven't met yet, and I do not want to jinx it) But I will say this. The title will probably be abbreviated in one of these ways: TRR (to be pronounced as "Tisterrrrrrrr") or R,BAN (which will be prounounced as URBAN or as "a dyslexic's colon aid" should I be feeling all clever and ironical.)

Between, Georgia is out there. Reviews are coming in. Amazon is shipping orders. The tangible book itself is appearing on shelves in more stores every day. Best of all, several of you adorable people have, my sources tell me, pushed that big yellow button on my sidebar to get signed copies from the Alabama Booksmith. My response to all this is two fold:

My job is spooky.
Dear Lord, but I love my job.

Posted by joshilyn at June 25, 2006 12:53 PM

Joshilyn, you are a trip.

Posted by: kate q at June 25, 2006 2:28 PM

So, I started reading Gods in Alabama (which I totally am LOVING) and just can't get over the fact that the sweet innocent adorable looking/sounding person I saw on that interview actually wrote these words! You are clearly an amazing talented person with such wonderful writing! Plus, your blog cracks me up!

Posted by: tori at June 25, 2006 3:07 PM

Since I don't have Tog-wiss to distract me and since I'm one of the adorable people waiting for a copy of Between to arrive from AB, may I get just the teensiest bit annoyed about that email? Or at least baffled. (<---fragment)

When I hear or read people react to giA like that, I Just. Don't. Get it. It's not like giA is an instruction manual for how to live your life. It's a STORY. And in the story, it's not like Arlene is saying the bad words or doing the bad stuff in church on Sunday morning. It's all perfectly logical within the context of the STORY. If she was standing around after Bad Things happened, waving her white lace hankie and saying "Oh deah. Mercy! Whatevah shall Ah do?" (which seems to be what some of the "you and your book are so evil" folks want), that would have ME writing nasty reviews and emails, right after I yelled "gaaaaah!" and threw the book across the room. So I guess there's just no pleasing all of us! :-D

I'm trying not to think about how immature I must be in wishing that you'd sent your reply. Heh.

Posted by: DebR at June 25, 2006 4:24 PM

I suspect that this reaction to yur dissatisfied reader is like a bit like grief. Meaning it will come in waves. Somedays it'll bother you and other days it won't register on your radar. Recently I wrote an oped, published in the NYT. It pissed off a bunch of people. People frothing foam wrote hateful things to me. I was nice and answered each one thoughtfully. Then two weeks went by and this lady from Texas wrote to me and chided me about my blog, about my family, about the NYT piece. I came apart like a $2 suitcase. Wrote her back and gave her what for. Told her that until she'd was in the trenches with me, she ought to simply hush up.
My point being that while you handled this situation like the lady you are, don't be surprised if somewhere down the road you find yourself spitting nails at the next reader who jumps you.
Glad the new book is out. I wish you golden honey moments. Something sweet to savor.
And you are SOOOO right on about the publishing world. It's like conjugating Latin...

Posted by: karen at June 25, 2006 7:57 PM

Yes, Between is out there. I saw it on Tuesday. I turned all of the copies face out, and handed one to a lady that was passing. Then I talked about it to the woman sitting in the chair next to me at the store. Sorry about that, she probably just wanted me to shut up, but I couldn't help it. I was laughing and snorting my coffee flavored stuff out of my nose, so I may not have been the best walking ad for the book. Oh well.
As for this blog, it's done it again. I simply can NOT read it without laughing out loud. Then HE says, from across the room, "Ok, let's hear it. I know you won't stop til you tell me." Really, I wasn't planning on reading it to him, but he INSISTS every single night. Every night! He loeves your blog as much as I do. That's high praise, indeed.
Deliverance, HA!

Posted by: dee at June 25, 2006 9:54 PM

One of the best bits of advice I got for writers was from Kate Wilhelm, who said to take your manuscript and drop it on the floor (in an envelope, of course! Who wants to pick up all those pages?) and say, "I am not my manuscript" until you can hear criticism without taking it personally.

Of course I'm not that good yet, but I still think it's sound advice.

Oh, and we had a customer in from just outside Atlanta, and we sold her a paperback copy of "gods", and she may track you down, Peach, to get a signed copy of "Between". I want you both to laugh about her having to come all the way to Seattle to find such a great Southern author!

Posted by: Fran at June 26, 2006 12:31 AM

I have always said I have the best job in the world...and I believe it until I read Joss in action...she has radio mental illness numbera... and as a writer? Well she rocks. :)

Posted by: Cele at June 26, 2006 1:51 AM

I don't see what's so potentially rude/upsetting/offensive about 'gods' at all... which is maybe something I need to look into! ;) xxx

Posted by: diane at June 26, 2006 7:54 AM

You know my dear husband Joss... well he relates this story. A good God Fearing mountain living christian woman went to see Deliverance where he used to live, believing it was a good God Fearing christian movie. I believe she shrieked in horror. Can you imagine? I just about busted a gut hearing him tell it, you can just see it...

Posted by: Tina at June 26, 2006 8:49 AM

Hee! Deliverance. <-- Fragments! I cannot WAIT to read Between. Also, I don't remember you mentioning the name of the WIP yet, but I love the title.

Posted by: Aimee at June 26, 2006 11:02 AM

One reason I aspire to publishing more fiction? You often get SOME positive feedback with the negative. Although the whack jobs do still come out of the closet to say hello. Why, if this woman was so offended, did she continue reading gods? Ask her that!

In my journalistic writing, I rarely get positive feedback, but if I make one teensy, tiny, itty-bitty mistake, 50,000 people e-mail, call, and write long letters to the fricking editors about it.

And I live in the South--where people are raised to be polite and say "thank you." Supposedly.

So when I write an article about how interesting and unique your small business is--an article that's worth $1,000s in advertising--though I'm only making enough to buy three pounds of organic, hormone-free chicken each week--would it hurt you to say "thanks"?

Wait. I have my own blog to rant on. And I love my job. Sorry, Joss.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at June 26, 2006 11:14 AM

I've seen it! Between! Even here in the wilds of greater Nebraska! We walked into the bookstore on Saturday, and there it was, right on the featured new releases shelf, right above the gods in Alabama paperback. And yes, I may have squealed in glee. Unfortunatly, my husband had to go and make some semi-valid point about the house payment being due next week, so I do not yet own it. But I will. Soon.

Posted by: Jessica at June 26, 2006 11:53 AM


I finished my second, two hours before the inlaws arrived. Now must take them to Alcatraz..........

YAY YAY YAY YOU!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Cornelia Read at June 26, 2006 11:59 AM

Yay! Book #3 has a title and is about to have a younger sibling! Thanks for letting us know.

I snatched a copy of Between off the shelf of my local bookstore in Raleigh last night and ordered the audio version. They also have gIA paperbacks sitting next to the register.

Posted by: Elizabeth at June 26, 2006 12:55 PM

TOGWISS is The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (TGWSS). Just so everyone really does know that she didn't go out and name a book TOGWISS. (Which sounds like an old scottish ale)

Posted by: tina at June 26, 2006 1:57 PM

You are ALL over southern Minnesota. I walked into the big bad chain bookstore, err, Little Bookstore Just Around The Corner, and Between, Georgia was on the New Fiction stand at the entrance. And then gods in Alabama in paperback standing nearby on a corner display.

Posted by: mme.p at June 26, 2006 2:32 PM

First, I must know if Cornelia is leaving her inlaws on Alcatraz.

Second, I can't wait to get my grimy mitts on a copy of Between -- closely followed by my other favorite form of reading -- LISTENING! I live to listen to books -- and this one being in Joshilyn's own little voice --- well, can we say a MUST listen.

If I could figure out how to have her sign it -- without writing on my ipod --hmmm

Posted by: Patricia at June 26, 2006 4:22 PM

First off, don't ever stop being a novelist :) giA was so delicious and I can't wait to order BG (had to buy pesky medications last week bah).

And if that irksome emailer thinks your book is the most offensive she's ever read? Well, I've got a few books for her ROFL Fooey on her anyway.

The fact you're working on #3 makes me giddy :)

Posted by: Angel at June 26, 2006 4:50 PM

What? What?!! "Between" is already shipping on Amazon?? (running to Amazon to move three copies from wish list to order list) WEE! One for me, two for girlfriends and I'm bringing them with me to the Margaret Mitchell House on July 20th. Wee!

Posted by: Lisa at June 26, 2006 7:38 PM

There were TWO copies on the section shelf along with the eight copies of gods. Well, seven now. I bought one. I love the bumpy letters on the paper cover!!!

Posted by: Autumn at June 26, 2006 8:16 PM

That Tog-Wiss thing? It's a little bit hot.

Posted by: Karen Abbott at June 27, 2006 12:21 PM

We SO need to back into Scholo to get you your own Headmaster's Charge. I hear that after 1.10 they are dropping like candy. I have mats for you to get a +22 INT enchant on my alliance AH mule.

If anyone besides Joss understands what I just said, you play too much WoW.

Posted by: Jill at June 27, 2006 4:36 PM

Okay, so about five people in my office -- a CHURCH office, mind you -- have now read my copy of "gods." I usually just tell them something like, "It's a little rough at first, but it has a redemptive theme that unfolds." I thought you'd like that. :-)

No one has passed out from shock
yet. In fact, one of them beat me to buying "Between" already!

Posted by: matt elliott at June 29, 2006 9:35 PM