July 15, 2008

National Pajama Month

I am spending July (and most of August...) in Pajamas, writing this book. I am living in my head, my eyes turned so far inward that I am walking into walls, and I have virtually stopped sleeping. It’s neat, but there isn’t much to blog about.

I am lonely here in my Pajamas---what would I do without you, Best Beloveds? All weekend long I left my upstairs hole where I am writing this book on the INTERNET FREE laptop and crept down here to the big computer to check comments. THANK YOU! Comments is what I am having in lieu of actual adult human contact this summer. HI! I wish I had something to TELL you back. Um…MY HEADACHE ISGONE? I can breathe through both nostrils? YAY! Or I could tell you insomnia stories, which are mostly made up and paranoid…

For example, last night at about 2, I was coming to go to bed and try fruitlessly to fall asleep again after a bout of writing, and I heard Suspicious Rustling. It was a SCRABBLING, TICKY sort of rustling. Something CLAWED was very busy somewhere IN MY BEDROOM. I lay awake trying to decide if it was a squirrel in the attic, a cat under the bed, OR a terrible possum---possibly rabid, definitely befanged and slavering ---- pretending to be a squirrel or a cat to soothe me before it crept up and blew its fetid possum-breath on my feet and then opened its yawping gape-hole, filled with disease needles, and SANK them into my flesh.

In my imagination last night, it was a very FAST terrible possum. It fled and there was no way to KNOW if it was rabid so I had to go to the emergency room and get 17 excrutiating shots in my stomach, which may be an actual treatment for possible rabies OR merely what the HATEFUL Terwhilliger kids who lived next door to us when I was seven TOLD me was the treatment.

(These are the same kids who lay on top of a Dempsey dumpster, waiting endlessly in preternatural silence with a bag of bricks and then bashed my brother’s head in with it as he went past. My brother had to go the emergency room for stitches and a concussion check, and when confronted by my family POST-hospital, those three children blinked with their empty, inhuman eyes, and the youngest lisped, “We just wanted to see what would HAPPEN,” in lieu of an apology. I am VERY sure they are off somewhere on a compound in rural Montana practicing ritual cannibalism by now.)

I broke at 3 am and woke Scott up and said, WHAT ANIMAL IS THAT? WHAT ANIMAL?

He listened for a moment and said, DEFINITIVELY, that it was a squirrel in the attic and even MORE DEFINITIVELY that I should GO. TO. SLEEP. SO I went and worked on the novel to give the terrible possum time to move on, which he seemed to have done around five and then I was sure he had died under the bed and soon I would smell his terrible ROTTINESS and he would open red glowing reanimated dead eyes that were sinking into his sockets and begind to CRAAAAAWL toward me... Yeah. On and on.

This hyper-active night-fear is probably because I reread Stephen King’s MISERY yesterday --- you know how BIRD BY BIRD is supposed to be a book about how to write, but SECRETLY it is a gorgeous, hilarious, and unstoppably great memoir about parenthood and family and loss? I am sure there is a lot of concrete writing advice in there too, people TELL me there is, but that’s not what I remember from it. That’s not what I take away every time I reread it.

In the same way, MISERY is supposed to be a dreadfully suspenseful tale about a lunatic and her own pet writer---a twisted retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights. But that’s not what I take away when I reread it. A few weeks after a rereading, all I remember is the love story to writing it contains. That book is a poem to the GOTTA, to the CAN YOU, with gloriously CONCRETE and EXACTLY CORRECT directions for writers about how to get unstuck, and it explicates perfectly the difference between HAVING and GETTING ideas. It’s awesome, and I reread it every coupla years to remind me how to find the hole in the paper and what a pleasure it is when I can find the way and fall through it.

What I FORGET until I am two chapters in and hooked all to hell, is that it IS actually a dreadfully suspenseful tale about a lunatic and her own pet writer, and even though in six weeks what I will remember---what I will have taken away---is the passionate love story of BOY MEETS PAGE, BOY LOSES PAGE, BOY REFINDS WRITING, last night I was all up ons from the AXES and the BLOODY BIRTHDAY CAKES and it led to imaginary undead possums and three hours of sleep.

Thanks, Mr. King!

And I MEAN that.

Posted by joshilyn at July 15, 2008 10:42 AM

It's interesting how a book can be one thing as you're reading it and another after you've read it.

Good luck with the Thing under the bed. They can move really fast, so be careful!

Posted by: ccr in MA at July 15, 2008 11:26 AM

I have been kept up so many nights by Steven King. For more tormenting,not so gory as MISERY, this being tormenting of a writer's widow, try "LISEY'S STORY". BAG OF BONES as I recall is also about a tormented writer, this time the writer is alive and the spouse is dead.

Have you read King's ON WRITING? This won't keep you up. It might cause you to chuckle beverages out your nose from time to time as you read it.

Posted by: parrotzmom at July 15, 2008 12:27 PM

Sheesh. I had a witch who lived under my bed and would cut my feet off and hang them up like baloney if I let them hang over the bed. Damn her.

Sorry to inform you, but the sociopaths who lived in the dumpster were correct. My elderly nest door neighbor had been bitten by a rabid dog when she was a young girl on the farm and had to go to Chicago for a long time and have the shots in her stomach.

We shall make it our job to tell you one new thing a day to reward you for rapelling into the story-world for us. But an old thing first -- my lips smell really nice when I use the lip balm. :)

OK, Today, in the cornfields past Chicagoland, we are having a corn-growing heat and humidity day. 90+ degrees and humid. We should see a marked difference in the corn from the beginning of the morning to the end of the day, and if we listen, we might even hear it.

Oh, and bonus, the little tomato plant that my daughter bought, which we had sorely neglected until all its leaves had dropped off, has three perfect apricot-colored spheres of cherry tomatoes and new tiny leaves. Yay.

Posted by: JulieB at July 15, 2008 12:43 PM

So glad you're feeling better at last. Sorry about the insomnia. One of my English teachers once assigned "Golden Days", by Carolyn See, and described it as a book about the end of the world by nuclear war and how people survive. Reading the book I wondered what was the matter with my professor - the book was about a woman in Los Angeles who sells jewelry and has lunch with her friends and blah blah blah. And then at the very end there is indeed a nuclear explosion and what do you know, the book is about the end of the world and how people survive. And that's the only part I remember. There are a whole lot of books where the only aspect I ever think of is actually something fairly minor in the book, even just one particularly lovely sentence.

P.S. Maybe the possum wants to be friends but he's nervous, so he's shyly scratching the floor in an "aw, shucks" sort of way and wishing you would pat him and give him some peanut butter and he could show you pictures of his kids. Totally possible.

Posted by: holly at July 15, 2008 12:46 PM

Thanks. Bunches. Really. Cuz now I GOTTA go read Misery again and then on Friday I GOTTA go up to the wilds of Michigan and spend two weeks at my in-laws on dirt roads with no streetlights but plenty of dark woods and creepy abandoned farmhouses. Greeeeeeaaaaat. This book of yours better be FABULOUS, Tulip, and I better get to read it SOON.

Posted by: Amy-Go at July 15, 2008 12:47 PM

You'll notice the rabies-shots-in-the-stomach people had them recently. I am firmly of the opinion that I've read that they don't have to do that any more, and if you're smart you'll believe me and not double-check on WebMD because you'll only find seven new diseases you might very possibly have, at least at three in the morning.

Steven King's On Writing makes you fall in love with his wife in a page and a half (have you ever tried to make one of your friends like another?) and that's even before she saves him from himself.

One can remember movies entirely for minor points, too. I once asked a friend if she'd seen Bull Durham and she asked "Is that the one with the candles?"

Posted by: rams at July 15, 2008 12:56 PM

Edit to read "You'll notice that NONE of the rabies shots-in-the-stomach people had them recently."

I blame the heat.

Posted by: rams at July 15, 2008 12:57 PM

I have also heard that the rabies treatment has improved over the years so that it is not so many shots. I'm with you on the possum thing-- ew. Pretty much any furry animal a pink tail gives me the heebie-da-jeebies, and the possum is the king of all such animals. *shudder*

Have you ever read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Steven King. That book grabs you and will not let go until you get to the end. It is my favorite of all of his books. It is not gory at all, just pure psychological thriller. A masterpiece, really.

Posted by: Jill W. at July 15, 2008 2:23 PM

I haven't read Misery since I was 16. It scared the bejeezus out of me just like everything else by King. Now that you've mentioned it, it makes me want to reread it as an adult and a writer. Every time I read something by King, I'm amazed by him. He's a master of the craft. Speaking of that, have you read Lisey's Story? It is WONDERFUL, as is Bag of Bones. Give those a try some time and let us know what you think!

Posted by: Lesley at July 15, 2008 3:22 PM

You should have a pajama party!

(with alcohol of course)

Posted by: Nik at July 15, 2008 3:35 PM

I can't read horror. Or watch it either; I made it to the first tentacle in The Mist and then bolted for the laundry room, caroling something about how my whites needed me. I read Skeleton Crew one night in high school while I was babysitting for a waitress that didn't usually get home until after 3AM. I still have nightmares about those stupid rats. I like your version of King, but were I to read HIS version of Misery, I am very sure that I would be finishing it on a psych ward in Birmingham through a Respiradol haze.

Posted by: Elena at July 15, 2008 7:59 PM

Throw those sorry cats off of your bed, and into the attic so they can catch whatever it is, that is roaming loose in your house.
I have five sorry cats at my house and they won't even catch mice, I have to set traps! LOL!
Good Luck!

Posted by: Heather P. at July 15, 2008 10:50 PM

My 13 year old daughter (who is 48 typewritten pages into her current novel) was just reading along with me, and said:

"I want to be like Joshilyn, she is cool, and special, and random, and spends whole months in her pajamas. YAY!"

(I have to tell you that "cool," "special," and "random" are very high praises coming from her.) Actually, I haven't let her read your books yet, but she is lobbying to be allowed....

Posted by: Kristin at July 15, 2008 11:46 PM

The Shining kept me up. But then, so did Charlotte's Web. Yes, I'm totally serious. Charlotte's Web gave me HUGE nightmares.

Arachnophobia, thy name is Fran.

But oh, to be in pajamas for a month! I'm assuming not the SAME set every day. And then, what serious luxury it is to wear people clothes again! I remember a time like that. But it was post-surgery. Still, weeks in jammies was nice.

However, Peach, I really would recommend at least one good night's sleep. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Fran at July 15, 2008 11:52 PM

Now see, this makes me want to read Misery, which I've never wanted to do before because I have Issues with Stephen King's books, so I have a very specific list of criteria for which of his I will read (well, not a list exactly, but I have The Rule) and will only read one of his if someone whose judgment I trust assures me that it fits The Rule. Those I like. But Pet Sematary scarred me for life, thus my long-time ban on his books in my life, followed by a slight easing of the ban by creating The Rule, and my continued deep and abiding distrust of Mr. King and his stories. Hhhmmm....

Posted by: DebR at July 16, 2008 5:58 AM

Yes, modern rabies shots are no longer so bad as the old-timey ones. I haven't HAD them, but did research after a rabid skunk wandered around and died in our front yard.

I actually LIKE possums (Marsupials! Cool!), but they do have an awful lot of needley little teeth. And did you know that mere mice in the attic sound like big, galumphing, scrabbly-clawed, bat-winged mutant raccoons at 2:00 am?

Posted by: Brigitte at July 16, 2008 7:13 AM

Random thoughts about your post and the comments, in no particular order:

- The Hateful Terwhilliger Kids would make a great title for a kids' book. I imagine them as a more horrifying version of the Herdman kids from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

- I love Bird By Bird and On Writing.

- And speaking of On Writing, I heard Steven King read the part about his horrible accident on NPR a few years back, and sort of fell in love with him, a little bit.

- DebR, in spite of my love of Steven King, I do in fact share your fear of reading his books. But I love the movie of Misery.

- Talking about the movie of Misery reminds me of this fabulous story William Goldman tells in his book, Which Lie Did I Tell? He wrote the screenplay for Misery -- when they screened it for King, they were all terrified he wouldn't like it. A studio exec was sitting behind King, and reported that he was scrunched down in his seat watching, and at the end was muttering, "Look out! Don't trust her! She's got a gun in her ayyyyypron." Hee.

Posted by: Aimee at July 16, 2008 10:40 AM

Like Kristin, I have a 13 year old who has been poking about to read your novels. I've been holding her off, because I know if I start he on "Between, Georgia" she will be skulking the back alleys of strange libraries looking to score her next fix. I'm not ready for her to read "gods" yet. (Actually, I don't think she would think she is either, but, oh, the temptation... And, as I found out once or twice, you can't unread something if you read it too early.)

My story for the day. (Stolen from my sister). My sister once found a distressed fox at the front door of her chiropractor's office. It was wandering around in a daze, barring people from entering or leaving the building. The chiropractic staff pasted a note to the door saying they were trapped and had called animal control but no one had showed up. My sister whipped out her cell phone, and since she is Wonder Woman and truely figthts very, very bad criminals for a living, called the police herself and told them to get a squad car to the location quickly. Then, because she is compassionate and sometimes not a good thinker despite having a brilliant legal mind, she found a dish in her back seat, and some bottled water, and set it out for the fox, who kept walking up to it, muttering, chattering and wailing and then would walk away.

Yes, kids, you can guess the rest. The police came and managed to scramble the fox into the back seat where it died before getting to the area animal clinic. It had Rigor mortis before they got it out of the car. (This is a 10 minute drive, tops). Yes kids, that fox had been rabid.

Posted by: JulieB at July 16, 2008 11:34 AM

OK, long wild-animal-in-the-house-story. Make yourself comfortable. Get another cup of tea, etc.
When we started remodelling our front room, we opened the wall (removed sheet rock, 9 layers of wall paper/paint/lath & plaster - yes this house is old) in order to replace the window. Well. That just created a freeway for scrabbly critters to come on in & make themselves comfy. They came up through the hole where electrical wires ran down into the crawlspace and dungeon, I mean, cellar. The first "visitor" our cat noticed, but wouldn't approach. She sat & stared at the upholstered rocking chair that the animal was hiding under. SMART cat. The dog? Not so much with the smarts. She started messing with the chair and whining & barking, trying to get whatever it is to come out & play. I saw this & thought, "What??" just as the critter started making noise - kind of like a saw blade rubbing against sheet metal. NOT your typical mousie squeak or squeal.
OF COURSE, the husband is out of town, so I call the neighbor, a former forest ranger/middle school science teacher/adventurer-type. Ranger Dan comes running over with big leather gauntlet gloves. He sticks his face under the chair and says, "It's just a mouse." I thought, "I don't think so." He chased it out momentarily from the chair, it sat up & WAVED at me, then ran back under the chair. It was a WEASEL. Gah!
Because of the remodel in progress, there was a wee chaotic mountain of building supplies & tools & displaced furniture between the chair & the front door, but Ranger Dan built a sort of chute between the piles of stuff and we tried to drive the weasel to the front door, which we propped wide open as an invitation for the weasel to leave. (I'd put the dog out in her pen. The cat sat up high and watched. I swear she was laughing. She later blogged about it: http://www.catster.com/cats/143723/diary/Life_beyond_the_hospital/151532 )
We herded the weasel to within 3 feet of the wide-open front door, when it ducked under the closed door into the "guest room" - which is where we had put most of the living room furniture and various other things that should have gone to charity or a garage sale 15 years ago. (We don't get a lot of visitors. Or if we do, they don't stay long.) Anyway, Ranger Dan starts tossing stuff around, trying to find the dang weasel. And then the phone rings - it's my brother-in-law calling from the other side of the world to say hi. I say real fast, "Sorry, can't talk, Frank's not here, and a neighbor & I are trying to whack the weasel that got into the house tonight. 'K? Bye." (I forgot to call him back later and really explain. He & his wife were afraid to check back too.)
End of the story? The weasel found an escape hatch through an electrical chase at the back of the closet in that guest room - and got down into the dungeon. Ranger Dan & I had a calming glass of strong spirits as I contemplated torching the house to de-infest it of weasels.

I didn't sleep well that night. Never saw the weasel again, though.

So, um, am I banished from commenting ever again?

Posted by: Lulu at July 16, 2008 1:07 PM

BTW, I am an attorney, but I work from home doing research and writing for other attorneys on a contract basis. I spend so much time in my pajamas, or on a day when I am feeling fancy, sweatpants and a t-shirt, that when I do actually put on normal go-out-into-the-world clothes, it makes my 3 year old daughter nervous. If she sees me in jeans and nice shirt she goes all wide-eyed and says "Mommy! Where are you going?"

Posted by: Jill W. at July 16, 2008 3:31 PM

The weasel story was worthy of being read to my onw Mr. Husband. Hilarious.

I have clear memories of my sister reading The Shining when she was in high school. She was five years older and cool and made me sit in her room while she read it. In college, even though I HATE scary movies, I went to see Pet Sematary to please a BOY. I left when the dad was sitting on the ground with the shovel next to him. That movie haunts me to this day. And no more scary movies to make BOyS happy.

I do, however, LOVE Stand By Me and The Green Mile.

Posted by: Roxanne at July 17, 2008 12:38 AM

I am reading all the comments about horror movies with my eyes closed. Horror is that hard on me. I blame it all on my mother. Back when I was about 9 years old, and discovering the joys of telling each other scary stories, she started using the phrase "you never know what might happen", to explain why I couldn't do things.
Well, in my mind, she was saying that the scary stories are REAL!
And I was in university (honest!) before I figured out that she meant rape and torture and other facts of daily life. So I can watch CSI and all those shows, no problem, but not read King.
Don't say your mother doesn't have an effect on you.

Posted by: Judy at July 17, 2008 3:20 PM

Thanks to Stephen King, I still avert my eyes from windows at night for fear I will see one of my newly vampired friends out there, on the second floor, beckoning me. I read Salem's Lot before I should have (maybe I never should have).

But I will tell you the most recent book to give me nightmares and I don't blame you, I blame my fear priority list maybe possibly brought to light by a book that was too well written - The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. First, it was that I had a feeling someone was inappropriate with my children and I went to his place in order to to beat the daylights out of him. He had curly hair and looked just like I imagine Stan Weblow looking. None of my punches would land. Very frustrating.

The next night was worse. I walked in on someone hurting one of my kids. It wasn't graphic but I knew what had happened. This time I was going to kill Stan Weblow. I jumped on his back and kept yelling to my mother - "get a gun!". My husband, who is a police officer, came in - to take a REPORT! and while all of the punches (kicks, bites, scratches) landed, none of them hurt stupid Stan at all.

I'm not generally a violent person but you know, dreams + someone hurting your kids = raging psychopath, at least in LaLa Land. I should have just kept reading to the end because once I finished TGWSS, I stopped having the dreams, I think I was just worried too much about Shelby and identifying too much with Laurel. There you go, though, you were a horror writer all along and never knew it ;-)

Posted by: Em at July 17, 2008 5:35 PM

MISERY is about addiction. Stephen King's said that Misery herself represented cocaine. Makes you look at that book in a whole new light, hm?

Posted by: Martha O'Connor at July 18, 2008 12:09 AM

I just have to ask how the whole insomnia thing works. It's it like a manic stage of manic-depression? Because I'm a good eight hour a night person- 10PM to 6AM- and anything less makes me feel like I went on a major bender the night before. I'm useless. I'm so sleep deprived that it's like a hangover. I can't do anything or even be nice.

Posted by: Sabra at July 19, 2008 11:38 AM

Wow, I hate Stephen King. Images I can never unthink/unsee. *shudder* Hate.

How do y'all feel about Anne Rice? I have yet to crack one of hers, except the Jesus one from a coupla years ago ... should I?

Posted by: kate setzer kamphausen at July 19, 2008 9:05 PM