February 26, 2007


Dear you,

I don’t think you quite got the idea of HOLE, and CRAWL IN and PULL HOLE AFTER. I was not at the kind of Hotel that had a spa. Or room service. Or the TV menu that lets you pick recent movie releases and watch them for 12 bucks. The TV, in fact, had about 15 channels. No HBO.

The thing they called the gym was a janitor’s closet with an empty crystal springs water dispenser, a single treadmill, and a pile of rubble that claimed to have been , at some point or another, an exercise bike. The continental free breakfast was the kind of individually bagged Danish you get out of Snack Machines and sludgy coffee with milk powder. Barren. Sparse. Wasteland. Sensory deprivation. SO UTILITARIAN was this tiny space that a person could not even order in pR0n.

It was a 300 square foot room with a bed, a computer desk, a sofa, and a mini kitchen complete with fridge and stove so I could take groceries there and not leave ever for even a minute. I had Scott take some of the guts out of my laptop so I had no internet. Then I packed one pair of jeans, one sweater, a buncha underpants and work out togs and 4 or 5 pairs of pajamas. I basically lived in pajamas for 7 days, eating South Beach frozen dinners and drinking COPIOUS amounts of coffee.

And I say look pitiful and knit my eyebrows together and say: I AM! It WAS! PET MY HAIR!
And then you say: But HURRAY, you finished the book!
And I say: Shut. Up.

I am CLOSE, though, okay? Veryveryvery close. I am about ½ way through the last chapter, although I already have 3 pages of single spaced notes of things I have to go back and tinker with in earlier sections.

This book has been HARD on so many levels----Usually, writing a book, I throw out about 60 thousand words to end up with 85 or 90 thousand words. I bet I have thrown away 150 thousand words so far, and I am not done throwing them out yet. This actually my third pass at the last chapter, and yesterday, when I checked out of the hotel, I realized I couldn’t; write the last chapter until I drove over to Alabama and LOOKED at this town I am using all through the book---I call it DeLop in the book, but it is VERY much based on a real town actually, and Oh My Best Beloveds….I spent yesterday there. Let me tell you, if I ACTUALLY and ACCURATELY described this town in my book, you would toss the book away and be mad at me for overblown hyperbolic tall tale telling. Real life is SO very weird, and it is almost always the few things in my books that I do NOT make up that I have to dial down to make them believable as fiction.

Case in point: In gods in Alabama, remember Phoebe the Chicken? Well. There really WAS a pet chicken like that, but I had to pare down the details of my fictional Phoebe’s life in gods or every reader would have thought I’d gone SO over the top that they never would have forgiven me. The REAL Phoebe, hand to God here, had little OUTFITS that tied on like aprons, like a red white and blue star spangled fourth of July one, and little tie on hats and, no really, wait for it, wait for it…WIGS. SO. Tell me you would buy THAT in a book…Fortunately, the REAL chicken did not meet the same fate as MY Phoebe. The REAL Phoebe lived for almost 20 years and then she died and the lady who owned her got an identical chicken, named…Phoebe. Not even Phoebe 2. Lordy people are weird, and who knew chickens could live for decades?

Anyway, I spent all day yesterday driving around this crazy small town with my dad and snapping pictures surreptitiously with a teeny tiny camera because if the residents had seen us taking pictures they might have killed us and put us down the quarry hole and we would never have been seen again. No, Really.

We saw one trailer parked on a grassy lot with well over 50 ceramic ducks and geese and swans in all sorts of STAGED SCENES. Like one big enormous stone duck was leading a trail of small assorted water fowl toward a plastic kiddy pool full of greened out old rainwater. The duck house was across from this crazy survivalist’s decaying double wide that was SO dilapidated it looked like it was melting into the soil. He had about 50 kinds of fencing all tied together with chain and barbed wire and BEWARE OF DOG signs everywhere. In the back were two pit bulls with heads as big as boot boxes and alligator mouths, and they were sitting staring out at me, flanking a HUGELY OBESE and EXHAUSTED donkey. The donkey was dead asleep with its nose in the dirt and I could smell the dogs from the car.

SO I AM BACK and must now go write the last chapter.

OH PS You, my niece asked me when she could read Between – she is in middle school. I said, “When you are in high school.” She said, “COOL, when can I read gods,” and I said, “When you turn 35.”


That said, At 10 years old I snuck Alex Haley’s ROOTS under the covers and read it with a flashlight, and I am not sorry. At eleven I read JAWS and THE GODFATHER and THE THORNBIRDS. I would let a kid read an R rated book YEARS before I would think they were ready for an R rated movie. Sixteen, I would hand the kid the book and be done with it. Fifteen? Judgement call---it depends on the kid. You know your kid better than I do.


Posted by joshilyn at February 26, 2007 8:54 AM


Posted by: Mir at February 26, 2007 9:46 AM

Close is good. You are still brave and good and true. :-)

Posted by: DebR at February 26, 2007 10:06 AM

Weird, but I just re-read a whole bunch of old posts on this blog about what constitutes age appropriate reading and wished I could comment, so here's my chance! I read a lot of stuff probably way too early. I was reading Cujo and a host of other Stephen King novels in 6th grade -- no nightmares, just sleep deprivation because I couldn't put them down. I agree that what you allow your children to read depends a lot on the maturity level of that child and a whole lot of open dialogue between parent and child. I never read Forever, which is apparently de rigeur among teenage girls, but I DID read the whole Clan of the Cave Bear series and tell me that's not pRon cleverly disguised!!

Glad you're back, Joss. All this hard work is going to be sooo worth it when you're done!!

Posted by: Leandra at February 26, 2007 10:06 AM

1. That hole STILL sounds really nice.

2. Close is definitely better than not close.

3. I love the costume-wearing real Phoebe, and I may just have nightmares about that donkey if he can hang with those dogs. Maybe the sign should read Beware of Donkey. I'd like a sign like that.

4. I'm glad I'm not the only one who spent her childhood reading books under the covers with a flashlight!

Posted by: Michelle at February 26, 2007 10:11 AM

Being veryveryvery close is definitely a good thing. Congrats on your week of hard work.

Posted by: Aimee at February 26, 2007 10:48 AM

Close is excellent! Congrats on your persistence and courage.

I snuck all kinds of books under the covers when I was 13, including one trashy Southern romance that described some sexual acts that I have never been able to erase from my long-term memory. Much more vivid than trashy mags or R-rated movies in my humble opinion.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at February 26, 2007 11:31 AM

You do deserve a pet or two. Now I wait on pins and needles for the finish, the editing, the printing, and the ulimate release to us, your adoring public.

I have no problem believing someone would dress their chicken up with clothes and hats (all though the wigs, well it is the south so okay I got it.) Look at how many people dress up their dogs and pot belly pigs. Come on it could happen - oh wait it does.

Posted by: Cele at February 26, 2007 12:09 PM

Your accommodations sound on par with where I'll be staying for the next 9 days on business. Look out Days Inns in West Tennessee.

I will keep my eyes open for "interesting scenery" as I travel in Northwestern Tennessee. I am always strangely fascinated by the painted stone lions on Hwy 172 between Corinth and Muscle Shoals. *shudder*

pet, pet, pet. Pretty, pretty J.

Posted by: Mit_Moi at February 26, 2007 2:22 PM

I knew chickens could live for decades.

No, just kidding, I certainly did not. I love how educational your blog is. :-)

I just started re-reading gods in a more analytical way, as in, how did you do that? And I'm just blown away by how much information is imparted in that first scene, which is thoroughly entertaining. You make it look easy, which is sure proof that it was hard, hard work. I'm sorry this one is harder than usual.

As for the 'what should kids read when?' debate, I can't remember my parents withholding any books. Maybe Forever, but I read it anyway, and it really didn't influence my behavior in the least. Lady Chatterley's Lover pretty much rocked my world in high school. And that was assigned...

Posted by: amy at February 26, 2007 4:19 PM

Bless you, and your brave, good and true heart. Almost there, almost there, and you will do it.

I agree with you that real life can be stranger than fiction. I actually went to a one room schoolhouse for all of grade school (how very Laura Ingalls Wilder of me!) and I'm not quite 30.

Hmmmm....verboten literature? Age appropriate literature? Of what are these things you speak? I was reading Tolkien at 7, Poe at 9, King at 10, and anything sci-fi/fantasy that I could get my hands on by 11. Okay, maybe that's why I'm just a little, teensy bit warped. And, also, I have no idea what I'm going to do when my children are older. (Although I already read my 5 & 2 year old the Legend of Sleepy Hollow for Halloween)

Posted by: Jessica at February 26, 2007 5:52 PM

Oh, thank you, thank you, THANK you for sharing the real life duck parade and pit-bull guarded donkey with us. I KNOW they are far too fantastical for literature, but I feel like a personal friend now--and I'm glad the inhabitants of the trailer did not spy your miniscule camera and do away with you before you finished your book. :)

I know your family is very, very glad to have you home again with your 99 44/100ths % pure novel.

Posted by: Roxanne at February 26, 2007 6:03 PM

You are good and brave (very brave for taking pictures of the pitbulls and donkey!) and you don't even have to knit your brows at me, I will pet your hair for staying in the tiny hotel to finish your book for us.

Posted by: Heather Cook at February 26, 2007 9:09 PM

Welcome home, O dear intrepid Joss. I would pet your hair, only I think Scott would not be best pleased if I did, so I'll let Mir do so in my stead. She's cool like that. Mayhap I should myself hoist a cup of java and offer a toast. Here's to Joss! And TOGWISS! And yes, even pet-able hair. =P

Posted by: David at February 26, 2007 10:15 PM

Ah, those flashlight-under-the-cover days....how well I remember them.... And my mom always wondered why it was so hard for me to get up in the morning! I'm still not sure that she knew exactly how late I was up reading most nights. She never forbade anything I read, though. Of course, I never brought home "How to Build a Pipe Bomb" or anything scary like that, just some more...mature topics than she may have liked me to read at age 14 or 15. But she thought I could handle it and didn't want to discourage ANY reading whatsoever.

Posted by: JenA at February 26, 2007 10:31 PM

I am reading a book that makes me think of you. The writing style, characters, etc... It is called Rock Orchard by Paula Wall. Know it?

Posted by: Heather at February 26, 2007 10:40 PM

I feel bad for the donkey . . . and you think these scary, backwoods corners are just in the deep south, but secretly they're everywhere! Yes, even in CT. Now THAT'S scary.

My mom also never forbade anything I read, though I don't know if she knew just how educational it was reading "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" and another graphic one with a girl in reform school (I remember Linda Blair was in the TV movie version) when I was about 12 . . .

Posted by: Brigitte at February 27, 2007 7:25 AM

Heather - I loved The Rock Orchard! I don't think it's as good as Joss's stuff, but it was also Wall's first novel, I think. She's got 2 other novels out, but I haven't read either (If I Were a Man, I'd Marry Me and The Wilde Women).

Brigitte - I've heard from a dear friend from Connecticut that parts of it are actually freakishly like the South...just a different climate and accent and all. I didn't believe her (I've been to some parts of upstate NY, which were very scarily Deliverance-esque, never to Conn., but Conne. makes me think of cute little picturesque towns!), but now you've validated her claim!

Posted by: JenA at February 27, 2007 7:37 AM

that's born innocent with linda blair. never could get that scene from the movie out of my mind......yikes!

Posted by: dramamama at February 27, 2007 8:27 AM

I wonder if this is why people persist in thinking I must have made my story up? Because I just put this stuff in there, exactly as I found it. I LOVE that kind of thing.

Joshilyn, I feel for you with this book, you must be going nuts with it at this point, but I KNOW we will all love it. Bon courage with the last lap.

Posted by: Laura Florand at February 27, 2007 2:51 PM

Thanks, dramamama! Hmmm, looking at the year on the movie, maybe I was only 10 when I read that . . the same year I was introduced to H.P. Lovecraft . . no wonder I'm twisted.

Posted by: Brigitte at March 2, 2007 7:45 AM