I FEEL BETTER. One of the nice things about being a moody person is that even the bad ones are a flash of light, a puff of smoke, and then before you can say Boom Chicka Ta! I have moved to other moods. THANK YOU for all the kind happy birthday wishes. I took to my bed with Chocolate and the Oscars and except for Johnny Depp not winning AGAIN, I had a lovely time. Two of my hometeam guys I was double-super-rooting for came through: GO CHARLIE KAUFMAN! GO MORGAN FREEMAN!
In other news, I heard from my friend Geoffrey that he is moving to Alabama. Dothan, to be exact. Dothan! He grew up in San Diego, and he is moving from Chicago, and to say that he is about to experience a little culture shock is like saying that giving birth might cause one to feel some discomfort and possibly pressure. I am compiling for him a DICTIONARY, because the poor boy does NOT speak Alabama.
This is what I have so far---please leave any Southernisms he absolutely needs to know to survive in the comments. PREESH!
It's blue tail cold. = It is very very cold indeed!
Bitty is a Briarpatch Whore. = Bitty is so loose you don't even have to rent a room. She'll happily jump behind the bushes with you, even if the bushes are thorny!
I'm going to cut your legs until the blood runs into your shoes. = Young man, you are getting a spanking!
I could shit and fall back in it. = I am certainly very surprised.
Bill can kiss my ass and then bark at the hole. = I am not interested in Bill’s opinion.
I'm going to vomit in my own shoes. = That disgusts me.
John would steal the nickels off a dead man’s eyes. = John is not trustworthy.
The big dog gonna get that baby. = The baby is not behaving well.
I’m dreckly moving to it = I will do that next.
I should just kill you and tell God you died. = No one has seen you for a long, long time.
I jumped his hump. = I gave him a stern lecture.
Larry would climb a telephone pole to tell a lie when he could stay on the ground and tell the truth = Larry is dishonest.
I’m going to shoot you til you fall down dead right there = I am going to shoot you many times.
Of course, if he hears that last one, he probably won’t be needing the other translations…
Today is my birthday. I am not having a fuss. I gave up having a fuss 8 years and 1 day ago, when Sam was born. See, he was born the 26th of February -- I was born the 27th. Scott was born on the 25th, so it's kinda neat, the three of us making a birthday sandwich with Sam as the bologna. (Poor Maisy came on the right DAY, but a month late---MARCH 28th!)
Birthdays were always a big deal to me, important, and so, since Sam is INTERNALLY my CLONE (he looks like his dad, but if you SCRATCH the surface even the faintest bit, it's almost ALL ME under there, poor kid) I felt they would be important to HIM. So I wanted him to have HIS DAY without feeling like it was STUCK between ours and always overshadowed BLAH BLAH. So I pretty much quit doing anything for mine and Scott's and Scott COULD. NOT. CARE. LESS. Really. Means nothing to him.
But I am a different animal. See, as usual, I was very cheerful and crazed as the birthdays approached, gearing up, planning Sam's party. We had it on FRIDAY (which was actually Scott's B-day) and it was a BLAST, the house overrun with five thousand sugared-up BOYS, impossible not to catch a huge case of joy as they thundered around wacking each other upside the head with the pinata bat. And then Yesterday, on Sam's ACTUAL birthday, we had his family party with lunch out and my folks took him to buy a new bike and he opened his presents, and I had a great time until it was all over, all the celebrating was over....and then the next day, today, NOW actually, it's MY birthday. Only we got done with all the fun parts YESTERDAY.
Oh, it's not like the people I love ignored it. On Friday, my friend Judi sent me FLOWERS (because she is pretty), ALSO on Friday my husband and I got to go out for a dual-celebration CHILDFREE dinner and a movie (pretty), my friend Julie gave me a cd of VERY BAD 80's POP which I ADORE (and which is PRETTY except it is guaranteed to cause Scott to stab himself in the ears until he pierces his brain and merciful death takes him), and my folks and my mother-in-law both sent me cards stuffed with CHECKS.
But...it's this OVER thing. It is just now today my birthday, and...all the celebration part is FINISHED. I should have put Julie's gift aside and not opened my cards, but I ALWAYS FORGET this happens, so I wake up with a splitting CHEER HANGOVER on my birthday.
SO, now I am hoping for rain to fall and drown me as I squat in my pit of woe because everything is ruined and dying blah blah oh the wasted trees on the blighted landscape. It's boring of me, and WHAT DO I EXPECT, really? A popped balloon? A useful pot for putting things in? MY SORROW IS RIDICULOUS. And self-centered. And VILE. I SHOULD keep myself very busy with a long to do list that DOES NOT begin with "SULK!" and DOES NOT end with "KILL BOTTLE OF SHIRAZ," but THAT would be a SENSIBLE response, so what are the chances? If you need me, I will be in the back yard eating worms til I die and THEN YOU WILL ALL BE SORRY!
IMMEDIATE DIGRESSION: The title seems like the walking definition of oxymoron, and thus would be a good album title for a high school garage band's almost hip indy release. Assuming the band was no good. I'm just saying.
Remember that Maisy renamed the cat? He has gone from being FRANZ SCHUBERT to being WAFFLES...Sam has picked it up, and Scott and I have taken to calling him Waffles as well. He has actually BECOME Waffles, Waffles ALL THE TIME, and I SWEAR TO YOU his personality has CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY.
He is so much more CUDDLESOME and HOMEY! He used to CROUCH beside me while I was lifting weights and neurotically CHEW MY HAIR, digging his fangs deep into my scalp. Now he maybe gives my ear a lick in passing. (I am STILL going to end up breaking my nose with the weights if he doesn't QUIT IT, but the lick is BETTER than the GRINDING hair bites). Instead of sleeping in a resentful hunch on my suitcase, buried deep in my closet, constantly stromping the nap and weave of it and pick!pick!picking! at it with his dread prehensile toe-pickers, he GETS ON THE BED, and tucks his massive haunches deep into my armpit, and his eye drifts half shut and he relaxes into jelly and PURRS!
It is as if Maisy's renaming gave him a tortured-musical-genius-ectomy.
I cannot help but wonder if a rose by some other name (say "poopoo") WOULD smell as sweet. The WAFFLES phenom suggests a rose renamed thusly might suddenly smell like something you wouldn't want on your shoe. COULD IT ACTUALLY WORK? I wonder if Joshilyn is some approximation of an ancient word for TORTUROUS NUTBAG. Perhaps I should go to the courthouse and rename myself Relaxa Worrynot. Except that sounds like a homeopathic laxative. But something LIKE that. Serenity Gowithflow. Except that sounds like a failed porn star. You know what I mean. OR HEY! Just WAFFLES. Maybe WAFFLES if the magic word. I can change my name to WAFFLES JACKSON. I will think on it.
MEANWHILE! PEEP THIS!
It's the cover of the British/Australian/etc ARC!!! WOOT! It came in the mail yesterday, and even though the UK Edition will use the WARNER COVER, they did a special cover for the ARC and WE LIKES IT MY PRESHUS, YES WE DO!
1) I just realized that FASTER THAN KUDZU will turn ONE! on March 6th. I have to think of something exciting to do for the ANNIVERSARY. It's really grown! That first month, not quite 500 unique users stopped by. Now the blog gets more than that every day!
2) I did something my friend Jill K. liked, and she said to me: YOU ARE THE JUNGLE-FIERCE AND RUTHLESS BLOODCURDLING TANGLE-FREE CATBOMB!
Which SOUNDS fabulous at first listen, but a closer investigation reveals that this is probably a euphemism for a poo. It's a little like being told, "You are the prettiest cat doot EVER!"
Free bonus euphemism: Back when Dear Old Toby Dog was still alive, we used to keep the litterbox locked up in the garage behind a TEENY CAT DOOR, and Lord help us if Toby finagled his wily way out into the garage. At that time, we called the litterbox The Salad Bar.
3) IT'S TIME FOR THREE QUESTIONS! This time with author Jennifer O’Connell. She has a HOT web design, by the way. It's seamless and she uses this really fun MAP thing, so if you go to her site, pick THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, and then pick a book, you get a MAP of the book and each stop is a little fun factoid...it's a very smarty-pants website.
Jennifer's NEW book, Dress Rehearsal, is an US Weekly HOT PICK (!!!) about a wedding cake boutique owner who can predict whether or not a marriage will last based on the cake the couple chooses. (PS Right now, if you act SUPER FAST because you only five more days, you can WIN the main character's DREAM CAKE via a contest on the website.)You can order the book through your local indy via Book Sense, and of course it's available from all the usual suspects: Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million.
Me: How'd you come up with the title?
JC: I had the title very early on - the original idea was that four friends come together in Boston to help their friend find a wedding dress. The idea behind the book was how women can tend to look at life before 'the man' as a dress rehearsal - they don't buy the good china, silver, vacations, homes because they figure they'll wait until they meet the guy they're supposed to share all that with. Although the plot of the book changed, the idea remaned the same.
Me: So, you've weathered the release of your debut novel with grace, aplomb, and no small measure of success---How was the publication of a second novel different?
JC: Publication of the second novel was fun, but different. The first time around you wonder if you're going to be an overnight success or if nobody will ever buy your book. This time around it was less nerve wracking, I knew what to expect, wasn't nervous about doing readings/signings, etc. I have a third book coming out in September, whereas when Bachelorette #1 was published, I didn't know if I had another book in me or if I'd be a one hit wonder.
3) How did you research THE RUNNING OF THE BRIDES? Did you go to Filene's and give it a try or...?
I lived in Boston, and anyone who lives in Boston knows about the running of the brides at Filene's. I never "ran" with the brides, but there are always articles written about it and it's something of an annual event in Boston. It's not Pamploma, there aren't any gorings on the street, but it's pretty damn close.
PS Ya'll, shhhh, don't tell anyone. but I am SECRETLY NOT A JOURNALIST! I am winging this. Right now, I am doing three questions like THIS: I ask about the title, because I always like to know about the title, so that's just me. Then I try to ask one question about writing or the author's experience in the world of publishing, then one question about the book. If you have suggestions for the SECOND catagory especially, HIT ME WITH THEM in Comments. I'll try to remember to tell you at the END of three questions who the NEXT 3Q Author will be, so you can make specific question suggestions if there are things you want to know. Next up: Johanna Edwards.
I thought I was the only person who thinks the proper response to nasal conjestion is "jam a bunch of tissues up the nose holes." But no, turns out Mir does too. AT WORK, even. Me? I only do it in my house. OR DID. While I had that bacterial bronchitis and was SO ill for SO long, my daughter got obsessed with my trailing tissue-wads.
She ANTHROPOMORPHIZED them by declaring the tissues to be nice, funny, smart, and named them (collectively) THE PLOG. Which I think is singular, actually. Sort of like THE BORG but with mucus. She asked endless questions about The Plog.
YOU GOTS THE PLOG, MOMMY?
WHY IS THAT THE PLOG, MOMMY?
CAN I HAVE THE PLOG, MOMMY?
She tried to get it to be "fends" with her, or maybe she was thinking of it as a little germ-infested pet. She kept GRABBING for it, trying to POP IT OUT and KEEP IT. When she wasn't talking about it, WHICH WAS NEVER, so scratch that opening and I shall try again: When LUNCH would happen and her mouth would be full so she couldn't talk about it for 7 - 10 seconds at a stretch, she would sit ruminating her sandwich and POINTING AT THE PLOG. Then she would swallow and say "I SEE THE PLOG!" I bet she DREAMED about the dern thing.
I eventually took THE PLOG out and let my nose run and immediately my entire face CHAPPED OFF. I needed a little PLACE where me and my plog could BE ALONE and UNMOLESTED, but it didn't happen.
SO! Since I cannot PLOG IN PEACE, I plan to never be ill again no matter what, and I have an arsenal of products to help me. AND THEY WORK. Okay, they can't stop BACTERIAL BRONCHITIS, but they MURDER little viral things, eradicating the illness while it is pink and blind and squirming and helpless. I use them all in rotation, depending...
Halls Defense Lozenges (aka delicious candy) - Take every day during cold season.
COLD EASE lozenges (aka The Butt-Awful Death Mouth) - Take if someone with a cold touches you, enters the room you are in and their AIR touches you, or if you feel the slightest tickle of impending misery.
ZYCAM (aka Nose-Sniffy) - Tale at the first sign of a cold if you cannot bear having Butt-Awful Death Mouth--EVEN THOUGH BADM is a more effective product.
Airbourne (aka Tang From Hell) Take before a flight, a meeting, or entering a room with multiple children in it -- in short, before you get the big ride at the CARNIVAL OF GERMS.
Go Thou and be healthy, and COME BACK TOMORROW for the second installment of 3 questions!
OKAY well, I could tell you about going over to Birmingham this weekend (we stayed with my folks so my little children have been spoiled beyond endurance) to attend a lit conference where I LEARNED SO MUCH about what to do (and what NOT to do, heh) when I get to SPEAK (!) events like this in the spring, and tell you why these things are actually pretty dern fun to attend as a eater-of-lunch and how I met some of my HEROES in person --- !!!! I got starry-eyed and humiliatingly tongue-tied and GUSHED, GUSHED I say, and WORSE than gushed: When I met Cassandra King and thanked her for THE MULTITUDE of kindnesses she has shown me, a total stranger, and my book, I got a TEAR in my EYE! GAH! Like the world's biggest geek meeting Spock at a STAR TREK CON*, and I was so embarrassed I prayed that a wandering anacoda would pop its head in and swallow me whole and then puke me back up dead but at least UNWEEPING before I made a total ASS of myself, but alas, they don't HAVE anacondas in Alabama, so I BLINKED it away and sniffed my nose theatrically to indicate that I had ALLERGIES, but she was SO kind and said "Hey---when I wrote my first book people did it for me...so," Then I felt better BUT STILL, one day I hope to not be such a DORK, yish!--- and what books I bought OR...I could apropos of nothing hare off to the left and yammer about cussing.
What do YOU think is going to happen now? ...Yup.
My brother doesn't cuss.
"Do YOU cuss?" you ask me, having wisely abandoned all hope of hearing anything USEFUL about lit conferences....And I say, WELL, UM, YOU KNOW, HEY! LOOK OVER THERE! SOMETHING SHINY! Or, in other words, if you possess a delicate nature and are in the same room with me when I hit myself in the thumb with a hammer, allow me to suggest you plug your ears and hum. Or just RUN.
He DOES have a pretty good argument for cussing as a vocabulary-limiting thing (an argument I usually dismiss out of hand as SILLY because I know UNSTOPPABLE cussers who have such fine vocabularies that they are licenced to use the word HEGEMONY in multiple states) but he makes his case because he has used NOT CUSSING to come up with the MOST innocuous and yet FOUL replacements for swear words. These invented phrases would never have been invented if he would just cuss, and that would be a shame because I LOVE THEM! They SOUND OBSCENE when said aloud, but are actually as bland as whole milk.
He will call someone, for example, "Butt Chuck." It means NOTHING, but it sounds awful. Try it, out loud. Say, "That man is a complete Butt Chuck." Ugh, sounds NASTY, but..isn't. It isn't ANYTHING. Or my favorite, and possibly the FOULEST sounding non-foul thing invented since Yvonne and I perpetrated the spine-shuddering phrase "SUCCULENT VINES." Are you ready? I do not think you are... GET ready, and then read the two words after the colon aloud and see if you don't make a face at the sheer REVOLTINGNESS of how they sound. Brace yourself, Bridget, here comes the colon: Pony Hole.
I used to cuss like a veritable FLEET of sailors, cussed constantly and with little provocation because I was in graduate school in Chicago and profanity was like the Native Tongue. Having kids cleaned my mouth up quite a bit. Toddlers aren't up on the idea of APPROPRIATE VENUE. If they learn the word Ass, they will use it, and they don't care if the venue is alone with a friend drinking beer and discussing the obvious merits of the back end of George Clooney, or at, say, a Christening where the tiny guest of honor experiences Unfortunately Timed Diaper Slippage. In my opinion, one of these venues is an appropriate spot for the word ass to make a judicious appearence. One is not.
My brother would disagree. He has this thing on his TV that CUTS out the sound whenever a bad word comes on and then puts a subtitle at the bottom, silently replacing the word with an innocuous synonym. It's called TV guardian. It does a good job, and also is amusing in that it cuts the sound on homonyms so every now and again the sounds cuts out and you get a subtitle like, "Jerk-a-doodle-doo."
I am thinking of getting one for the play room TV to encourage the idea of NOT CUSSING in my children. This is not hypocritical; I NEVER think "in front of one's mother" is an appropriate venue for bad language. EVER. Profanity is a vocabulary that I use strictly with my close peers, not my parents, not my kids. I NEVER cuss in front of my mother even though I THINK SHE PROBABLY SUSPECTS by now that I do not always keep my tongue as white and blameless as vigin lamb's wool. My mother has read my book---she knows what vocabularic heights ---and depths --- I am willing to plumb. But only in theory. I hope my kids will see that boundary or else they will find themselves brushing with Life Boy.
But as a writer, respecting one parents aside, I don't believe in the idea of "bad" words. There is only a word that is right for the moment. My characters all have their own vocabularies. Some of them wouldn't say ASS to mean anything but Balaam's furry friend if you offered them 500 bucks. But others, well, they are cussers, and that means *I* as the person sticking the words in their paper mouths need to be willing to use those words.
There's one line in gods---I won't say the line here, appropriate venue and all---but I will say that it is (FORGIVE ME) a perfect line for the MOMENT, for the characters, and there is NO WAY I could ever have CUT this line even though the idea of my MOTHER reading it makes me go looking for that 'Bama Anaconda again and even though it cost me being a guest speaker at a VERY cool local event because one of the things they do is read the ENTIRE book out loud over the course of a week and this ONE LINE...no one was willing to SAY this one very explicit (excuse me, forgive forgive) VERY funny line OUT LOUD. They didn't think they COULD say it wiuthout all the blood rushing to their heads and exploding them. If I get excommunicated from my church it will be over THIS line. If a truck hits me tomorrow and I die and the pearly gates are closed to me...this line will be featured in the paperwork for my transfer to hell.**
*I realized as I typed that if I DID get to meet Leonard Nimoy at a Star Trek con it would probably be a BIG HIGHLIGHT of my life, so. It is hopeless.
** If you got your hands on an ARC because you are a bookseller or whatnot, the line in question is very close to the top of page 138. Although, if you have read the book, you probably knew EXACTLY what line I meant without the page reference.
I am in Birmingham at a lit conference -- BIG FUN. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow or Monday, but right now I have to post this picture I took yesterday...
Maisy has renamed Schubert the cat. She calls him "Waffles," even though she can't PRONOUNCE it. She's got the rest of us doing it too. Quite a step down! He went from being one of the world's most brilliant composers to a simple carbohydrate. And in a post-Atkins world, no one even LIKES carbohydrates anymore. Poor old Kiggy...
I discovered them sitting together like this on the stairs.
Me: Maisy? What are you doing?
Her: I petending to be Law-fuls! Meow!
Her: I only gots one eye.
I have no response to that. <--name that film.
The new working title is MAGGOTS IN HATS. Thanks, Deb.
I HAVE SENTIENT MOLD plotting world domination in my toilets because I am reading so much and writing when I am not reading, and working out when I am not reading and writing because the bronchitis KICKED MY BUTT and I need to be strong and healthy before I go on the road again and and and. I feel like a very EARNEST hamster in a wheel, a SQUEEKY wheel that goes WREE WREE WREE, and I am always DOING but never get anything DONE. But at least wheel-running is fun and I am a hamster so how bright can I be? Maybe I don't KNOW I am not getting anywhere.
MEANWHILE, I am troubled by GENETICS. Specifically, my OWN, because my ELDEST child has been thoroughly poisoned by my pernicious genes. It is a truism around here that if I leave the house with three inanimate objects in my care, I will come home with two, and one of them will be broken. BUT HE IS WORSE THAN ME. He will come home with one, and it will be attached by a string of its guts to his shoe and he will be dragging it along with no idea it is there. Of course, he IS only seven. BUT IT MAKES ME CRAZY! CRAZY I SAY!
This morning I put all his birthday party invitations in his folder.
Me: Go put this folder in your backpack.
Him: *takes folder* Last night I found the real tomb of Tal Rasha! But there were all these fakes first and it took me, Mom, five days, Mom, to find it. But then---
Me: Sam. Stop. Look at me. GO, right now. Put that folder in YOUR BACKPACK.
Him: What folder?
Me; THE ONE YOU ARE HOLDING.
Him: *Takes three steps, stops, stuff folder under arm and drops to his knees* MOM! LOOK! IT IS MY BLUE EYES WHITE DRAGON! Oh Man! I thought I loaned that card to Joe and I---
Me: SAM! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! PUT! THAT! FOLDER! IN! YOUR! BACKPACK!
Him: *acting like I am a MORON* Geez, you don't have to YELL. I WAS already. *marches off dejectedly*
Me: *calling after him* GO PUT IT DIRECTLY IN THE BACK PACK. RIGHT THIS SECOND!
Him: *mutters things under his breath, probably about my parentage.*
Me: ARE YOU PUTTING IT???
Him: *calling back to me* I am PUTTING IT.
I JUST FOUND THE FOLDER UNDER A CHAIR IN THE BREAKFAST NOOK.
Someone please explain that to me.
Oh, right. He's my kid.
So I dashed down to the bus stop IN MY SOCKS and the bus was there ALREADY so I GRABBED his scruff as he was boarding and put the folder into his backpack myself while giving him the MONSTROUS pointy eye. Then I walked home with FROZEN feet.
Me: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH THAT KID???
Scott: You know what we are going to. We will keep nudging him and helping him and reminding him and teaching him and eventually he will grow up and marry someone and it will be HER problem.
HA! In other words, I need to get over it because that kid is NOT going to change.
Lord knows I haven't.
I got an e-mail from a friend I have not talked to in a bit. Very cryptic. It just said, "Hey! What are you doing?" That was it. The whole thing. And it was like getting spanked upside the head by existential angst because...WHAT AM I DOING????
It must be LIST time. You know how I feel about LISTS! I will try to DO IT MYSELF in order to avoid being murdered by my husband who IS the most patient man on earth but come on, EVERY GUY HAS HIS LIMITS.
SO! MY LIST! I sat down to make it two entries ago and DIGRESSED but now I shall embark upon a list of what I need to do over the next seven weeks:
1) I am going to TRY TRY TRY (I think can I think I can I THINK I CAN! PUFF! PUFF!) to finish the INITIAL ROUGH DRAFT rewrite on the book I wrote before I wrote gods in Alabama. I just redid chapter one, and I thought it would take a couple of hours, and instead it's taken four working days. By the time I got through it, 3 plot points and maybe thirty or of the original sentences survived more-or-less intact. Heh.
So, I'm thinking it's going to be a new book, just BASED on a sub-plot that haunts me. The book was originally called 40 Dead Horses. The horses are a big part of what I am keeping, and my agent has suggested this for a working title: 40 Ghost Horses. He feels ghost is more EPHEMERAL and PRETTY and conjures up lovely white horses cantering in wispy and graceful silence across the night sky instead of, you know, several metric tons of fly-blown MEAT, and yeah, OKAY I can see that. BUT! Given the main character's call-it-EXACTLY-like-she-sees-it, tact-free, BLACKLY veryveryvery blackly funny personality, I STILL prefer the stark, flat HONESTY of the word DEAD. But okay, I can see where it might not be terribly APPEALING to a reader who doesn't know the context and WHY that name is ironic. I think people in the store would see the title and assume the book is going to end with the entire cast committing suicide in a horse abbatior and RUN the other way. BUT ANYWAY, what do you think of that? As a working title? Here, look at it on it's own:
40 Ghost Horses
I think I like it...
BACK ON POINT (which is sadly, I believe, still only point ONE...): It WAS (I admit, I admit!) an overblown book, 120K+ words with maybe 90K worth of STORY. But I thought a pare down with a side of tinkering would fix it. BUT NOW? Looking at it two novels later, with (I HOPE TO GOD) a more educated critical eye and very little MERCY for my own especial pet weaknesses---I NOW see that the two MAIN characters have to be totally removed as if they were collectively a diseased appendix. About all I am keeping of them is their names. I am too distant from one and the other is just...wrong. He is actually a completely different PERSON---I am writing my way to him. And the MAIN storyline is a series of red herrings, tricks I played on MYSELF that led me to the WRONG END and I am also doing a RADICAL SUB-PLOT-ECTOMY to remove a SELF-INDULGENT storyline. Also, woman I once thought was an important secondary character needs to be thrown down a well. UGH I HATE THIS WOMAN. I need a well full of PIRHANA, a well full of BATTERY ACID and SHARKS and FATAL DISEASES. NEVER do I want this woman to darken my prose again. But!
The more I strip away, the more I can see the clean and (excuse me, FORGIVE! FORGIVE!) gorgeous bones of the book I ACTUALLY WANTED TO WRITE emerging. It’s like I am flensing away an entire WHALE and finding the bones of something sleeker, say a JAGUAR, and I am wondering why on EARTH I ever thought a jaguar skeleton was a good place to stick a whale pancreas and some blubber and ambergris and a blowhole. This was what? Five years ago? And at that point, I could see this book (and it is in its own defense an AMBITIOUS book, I will give it that) in my head, but I didn't know how to write it.
Brain to page, brain to page...longest trip in the universe. But I think I see the way now. That. Gets. Me. Hot.
Even though I've fallen so hard for these people all over again, I'm horrified by the SHEER AMOUNT OF WORK it's going to take. I have two months before I start touring...and I ALSO have this new book pushing in at the edges of my brain and requesting very kindly that I get off my widening butt (the BRONCHITIS has played HELL with my work-outs, I JUST this week am back up to my usual schedule) and WRITE IT and in a week or so I will be back in BETWEEN, GEORGIA because my editor is ready to go to PHASE TWO of editing it, and CRAP!
SEE? SEE? I need a list. Because OTHERWISE, since I am me and my mental illness number is hovering somewhere ABOVE that building in Taiwan that's taller than the Sears Tower, whatever that building is called, the VERY TALLEST one, GAHHHHHH WHAT THE *@^#@^& IS IT CALLED??? ANYWAY, because my mental illness number is way way way up there, I feel like an anvil is going to DROP ON MY HEAD AND KILL ME before I get to write the book I want to write next and that won't stop unfolding itself in long chains in my head, clotting up the two books I need to be thinking about NOW and I need to MAKE A LIST and then begin CHECKING THINGS UNIFORMLY OFF IT IN AN ORGANIZED FASHION but every time I sit to make a list so MUCH is going on in brainland that I hare off into digressionary extended metaphors about...HYBRID JAGUAR-WHALE VIVISECTION???? *passes out from lack of oxygen to brain because I forgot to keep INHALING three paragraphs ago.*
GOLLY! I hope that answers her question.
I think I will write back and say, "The Usual. What are YOU doing?"
...I must have cut off my hair, heard the voice of God speaking directly to me, borrowed some boy clothes, climbed on a palfrey and SAVED ALL OF FRANCE! Or perhaps I played a flute and lead all the filthy rats out of medieval London and then personally STAMPED them to death one by one---EVEN THOUGH I WAS BAREFOOT---ending the inexorable march of the black plague. I MUST have discovered the polio vaccine or given birth to Abraham Lincoln or breathed on a butterfly who flapped his wings in my garden, thus stopping a deadly earthquake from wiping out all of Nepal.
I do not know what it was, I am WRACKING my brain, but I must have done SOMETHING good. I mean BIG good. So So SO Good.
I must have done SOMETHING, because I JUST HEARD that gods in Alabama is the NUMBER ONE Book Sense pick for April. Book Sense, GOD LOVE THEM, has now pulled a Southern author HAT TRICK. Their February #1 pick is THE SAME SWEET GIRLS, Cassandra King’s third book (a big-hearted, gorgeous book that has “break out” written all over it). And their March pick is the debut novel of Dallas Hudgens who writes like the roof, the roof, the roof is ON FI-AH, and if you have not yet read DRIVE LIKE HELL, then a) What is wrong with you??!?! and b)Why are you still sitting here? Go GET it, and OH! What pleasures await you!
Anyway, it’s a HUGE honor. Huge. I’m just FLOORED.
Book Sense, for those not in the know, is the ABA’s way to BAND TOGETHER the country’s independent bookstores into a collective, national presence. If you follow the link to Book Sense, you will SEE Cassandra King’s book RIGHT THERE on the splash, ALL FANCY! And you can just CLICK ON IT to buy it from your local indie. And next month Dallas Hudgen’s book will be there…and then…in April…Let me just stop here and prance around the room. Back in a sec.
OKAY, onwards---Book Sense is like… the last bastion of those literary heroes, the HANDSELLERS, the folks who do it all for love, and if you cut them, they bleed black ink because they are book people squared, book people CUBED, Capital B Book People to the nth power. Book sense is Robert Gray at Northshire, and it's A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books. It's Powell's and The Alabama Booksmith and The Tattered Cover and SO MANY MORE, and today, oh lovely today, it certainly appears that…THEY. LIKE. MY. BOOK.
I am all up ons, and I have to say the following:
OH! BOOK SENSE MEMBERS! THANK YOU! I want to get in a car and criss-cross the country and come to your stores and kiss you, every single one of you, RIGHT ON YOUR MOUTHS. Not to scare you, BUT HECK! MAYBE I WILL… just as soon I wash all this rat off my feet.
SO, what now??? I am finally physically back to, say, 85%. And the pre-sell tour is over, so barring a few little commitments here and there, I have a clear coupla months before gods gets its visit from the blue fairy and becomes a REAL BOOK! SO! I am going to MAKE A LIST of vital things that WILL get done before April 13th. Although (What's that? Galloping toward us over the horizon? Raising a mighty dust cloud like the Great American Buffalo Herds of Yore!? WHY! IT IS A HUGE DIGRESSION!) just because gods isn't actually OUT YET doesn't mean I am not ALREADY frantically checking my Amazon sales ranking number.
Every author I KNOW has an Amazon Sales Ranking Number Checking Problem (And here I leave my digression to DIGRESS: Natalie R. Collins is keeping a RUNNING TALLY of Amazon Ranks to see which is selling better, her first novel or The Book of Mormon...she wins some days, she loses other. It's a GOOD BOOK, her novel, but the competition is stiff...Natalie thinks she might win more consistently if she would take the time to found her own religion.) BUT ANYWAY, EVERY writer I know keeps one twitchy eye on their Amazon sales ranking even though they know in the grand scheme of having ANY IDEA of how the novel is ACTUALLY SELLING across the country, it means VERY VERY LITTLE and only confuses and upsets them when it plummets to half a million and fills them with elation that may or may not be founded when it suddenly leaps up to dizzying heights and breaks into three digit territory.
I have had MORE THAN ONE established author say to me, "When your book comes out, you must not start checking your Amazon ranking, because I just checked mine, and I am killing myself! So long! Thanks for all the fish!" Or, conversely, they might say "When your book comes out, you must not start checking your Amazon ranking, because I just checked mine, and I am now too busy and important to speak to you, and PS, my number is now unlisted, and I HAVE ALWAYS SECRETLY LOATHED your haircut." Either way, the message was basically this:
*Holds up an egg* This is your brain.
*Smashes egg into hot grease* This is your brain on YOUR AMAZON SALES RANKING.
When your book comes out, DO NOT CHECK YOUR AMAZON SALES RANKING.
But... realistically, no matter WHAT older and wiser folks SAY, I AM going to get hooked on checking my amazon sales ranking IMMEDIATELY after the book comes out, and it began to occur to me...why should I put off until tomorrow, dangerous addictive behaviors I could start today?
SO! I asked myself, SELF, I asked, WHY not GO AHEAD NOW and become obsessed with numbers I have NO CONTROL OVER and which don't actually mean anything?
And Self said, HMMM! You could wait ...I don't know, say, maybe, to retain a modicum of MENTAL HEALTH?
Which , if you read this blog with any regularity, by now you know I feel mental health is HUGELY OVERRATED. In fact if MENTAL HEALTH was a book on AMAZON and I was Amazon's ONLY consumer and could rank books at WILL, I would banish MENTAL HEALTH and send it SO far down the list its number would be over TWO MILLION, and there it would stay, along with all the books about politics and high colonics and any book that used a phrase like "His moist glance plucked tenderly at my heart strings" without irony.
With nothing at stake but my mental health, I went right on ahead and became obsessed with my Amazon ranking numbers MONTHS ahead of schedule. Which, if your book does not techinically EXIST because it hasn't actually even been PRINTED, it's still a THEORY this book, an IDEA, an order sheet and some signed blue pages, a note on a printer's "to do in spring" list, IF all this, then watching it's SALES RECORD on a NEAR DAILY BASIS is COMPLETELY NUTZY FANDAGOED.
Because, little square picture on an Amazon page aside, the ugly truth is....
People only very rarely buy things that DO NOT EXIST. If they DID, we could all sell prime real estate in Florida or some of the Up-For-Grabs Bridges of New York and become piggishly wealthy and go in together and purchase the South of France. It just doesn;t HAPPEN very often.
BUT. As any grifter can tell you...sometimes people DO buy things that do not technically exist. AND I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. ESPECIALLY when they coincidentally do it in a little CLOT, one after another, and my Rank will bounce up from where it usually sits at around 800K, and go rocketing up into the 100K or 80K range, and considering that I DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE A BOOK TO SELL YET, it's pretty exciting.
TODAY for example? THIS HAPPENED:
And I got ALL UP ONS and made Scott come look and, as you see, I had to do a little screen capture and draw HEARTS because the baby of mental health got tossed out in January's bathwater when I officially ditched my JUST SAY NO policy re: checking my Amazon Sales Ranking. DOWNSIDE: NOW I have to watch it GRIND ITS WAY BACK DOWN to 800K or so where it will sit with all the other books that are up on Amazon but not scheduled to exist for weeks or months.
BAH! I've digressed my way out of time -- I have to go babysit for a friend who's feeling cruddy --- MORE TOMORROW ON THE ACTUAL TOPIC (Whatever the heck THAT was...something about buffalo).
OKAY, BUT THEN TODAY THIS HAPPENED LOOK LOOK PEEP THIS:
Mentally ill much?
Yes, thanks, and please pass the mashed potatoes and sedatives.
In NYC, the pre-sales event was a LUNCH.
Dinners are easier. At dinner, everyone is in their HOME clothes and off the clock and it's leisurely and more WINE-laden. At lunches (I have learned on this tour) people might have meetings to go to later, they have power ties and briefcases, and you know how easily intimidated I am by that sort of thing --- remember my Boardroom Induced Nervous Prostration at the Warner building? Yeah. Okay. So. Lunches are more likely to be like that.
BUT IT WAS GOOD. Book people in power ties, I have discovered, are still BOOK people---funny, smart, well-read, charming---and the RESTAURANT was, bar none, the best restaurant in the universe. Period. Forever. It wins.
The food was sublime, but that isn't why. In fact I had a minor RUN-IN with the food. I ordered the tenderloin, which came on a bed of greens with potato risotto (!!!) and THAT was FAB, but beside the meat there was little ROUND slice of something that looked like maybe a heart of palm or a slice of a pale root veggie. The woman beside me, more experienced in NYC cuisine than I, was looking at it with a jaundiced eye, and she made NO MOVE to eat it. I should have heeded the small inner voice that said, 'WHEN IN ROME, do not eat that which is troubling to the Romans,' but alas, I did not.
"I wonder what that is?" she said.
I cut a hunk off and said, "Maybe a turnip?"
Just as she repeated her question to the waiter, I popped the bite into my mouth. It was...cool and gelatinous and it...pulsed. I held it whole in my mouth, panicking, as the waiter said (in a voice that I retrospectively feel was INAPPROPRIATELY CHEERFUL), "Oh, that's some delicious bone marrow! It COMPLIMENTS the meat!" Maybe so, but I prefer a simple, "Meat, how charming you look in that morel sauce," as a compliment. I swallowed the gobbet of (YARK!) bone marrow, swallowed it WHOLE, and dived DEEP into my wine glass. I refused to emerge 'til I was POSITIVE my inner stomach-waiter wasn't going to send the (YARK! YARK!) bone marrow back, as it were, to the kitchen.
MARROW ASIDE, I WAS a little nervous at first---lunchophobia---and it showed I think, because I knocked my fork off the table. ABOUT ONE HUNDRED TIMES.
And here is why the restaurant wins forever. The wait staff was FANTASTIC and acted as if it was NORMAL and RIGHT for a patron to be hurling cutlery to the ground every 20 seconds and then desperately kicking her MULTITUDE of dropped forks under the table. One of them would just GHOST UP and invisibly insert a new fork where the old fork had been. And then, of course, I would knock THAT one down and kick it under the table, and so on, and so on, forks without end, amen, and I am sure this would have gone on ad infinitum except that everyone there was, well, book people. So I got sucked into the conversation and very quickly started having a really good time and forgot to hurl my silverware. SO all is well that ends well, and I only hope the maitre d didn't have to send a waiter sprinting off to Neiman Marcus for extra forks since most of theirs were under the table stabbing my ankle every time I forgot they were there and got excited and bounced my feet around.
And that was it---thus endeth the pre-sales tour. I am SO SO happy to be home...but...but...it is like my editor told me...nothing like this will ever happen to me again, because even if it does, I won't experience it in the same way. I realized how RIGHT she was when I was walking down the streets of MANHATTAN on the way to this last lunch, MANHATTAN! a MYTHOLOGICAL place that only a year ago I secretly thought was really a LOT in L.A. that someone invented so they could film Sex and the City, a completely FICTIONAL MAGIC-LAND where BOOKS get bought and published. It was NEVER real to me, even after I had been there a week! But this was my fourth trip, and I had been to CT and Boston and was jet lagged and I smelled like a cab. I trudged down The Avenue of the Americas staring at my feet and I DID NOT NOTICE I was in Manhattan! I had lost that breathless giddy THRILL I used to get just OGGLING the REAL! NEW! YORK! It had become a part of what I do... Wonderful, yes, exciting, yes, but the new had come off it, and New York City is a real place now.
When I realized what was happening, I threw my head back and looked up at the mighty buildings and the herds of wild cabs roaming free and the women in their fantastical shoes and breathed in the living smell of the city. In this way I managed to catch it again, that nerve-strumming thrill, felt it move through me and leave me, reminding me of the tail end of a first real kiss. I got tickled with myself, with my melodramatic need to make-out with the city, to "have a moment," as they say. I laughed out loud and my editor and publicist looked at me, raising their eyebrows, and I said, "It's just...I'm in New York." They nodded and we kept walking, my editor flagging a cab, and I thought to myself, "OH! PONYBOY! I WANT TO STAY GOLD!"
But you can't, you know. You really can't.
SO! We're up to BOSTON, but we interrupt this redux to pull a Monty Python. In other words, I am sending John Cleese out to a cow field to sit behind his desk and say, AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. He will be wearing a tuxedo, naturlich!
I'm doing this blog-exchange thing called GCC---which means I am going to have ACCESS to the TREMBLING PINK BRAINS of about 20 other novelists. These brave but foolish souls will patiently grant me a three question interview. Huzzah! I feel like I need a snazzy hat, a 40's girl-reporter suit, and a PRESS PASS! If you don't like my questions, leave me some suggestions for NEXT TIME in comments---I want to be sure I best exploit my TINY SLICE OF NEW-FOUND POWER!
First up is ALISON PACE, and her debut novel has a REALLY good title: If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend.
It Chick Pam Houston (Glorious She of Cowboys Are My Weakness fame) calls it, "A funny, feel-good fairy tale set improbably in the high-powered international art world."
I sat down with my computer over coffee, and Alison sat down with hers while presumably drinking something different, and here is what came of this meeting of...wires:
Me: Great title! How'd you come up with it?
AP: Thank you! There’s a scene in my book where a young girl asks, “Did Andy Warhol have a Girlfriend?” This question gets my narrator, Jane, thinking about how some things just aren’t meant to be. I think that ability to accept that certain things simply won’t work out is a pretty big theme of my book, or at least I planned for it to be. So as soon as I wrote a sentence that began, “If Andy Warhol had a girlfriend…” I just knew that was my title.
Me: What's the best STUPID LITTLE perk about having your book sell? You must here confess what RIDICULOUS dorky thing has pleased you WELL beyond the scope of it...
AP: I quite like having a website. I dork-out sometimes and just get it up on my screen and stare at it.
Me: Ha! Me too. I DO that. Okay, I only get one more...OH! To whom did you dedicate the book, and, if we may be so bold and intrusive, why?
AP: My parents. Because they’re awesome.
OH! If you go to Book Sense PLEASE NOTE that Cassandra King's new novel, The Same Sweet Girls is the NUMBER ONE Book Sense pick for the month of February. Cassandra King is an excruciatingly talented novelist who read and liked gods in Alabama and wrote a lovely blurb for it even though she didn't know me from Adam's off-ox, which obviously makes her a fantastic HUMAN BEING, and WE LIKES HER, MY PRESHUS, YES WE DO.
Lord, I have rambled on, so I will BRIEFLY revisit Boston and then SHUT UP for the nonce. I had a free afternoon, so I walked out of my hotel (which was in Cambridge) and hiked around, googling at History. Atlanta BURNED DOWN as you may recall, so we don't HAVE anything like what I was seeing. The whole place appears to made out of ancient, mellowed red bricks that have been aesthetically coated with good-taste-committee-approved vines. I saw some GORGEOUS homes and school halls and libraries, and I can now say TWO things with absolute veracity:
1) I went to Harvard.
2) I have a masters degree.
The fact that these two things are WHOLLY unrelated is not a topic of conversation I am terribly interested in pursuing just now...
I spent the last week con-less in Connecticut, broken-cabled in Boston, and un-internetted in NYC, so obviously I have a LOT to tell you. I met some really fantastic people and have BOOK RECS for you and I ate my body weight in seafood, but the BOOK part of the trip aside, I made a very important discovery which I will now share with you. Ready? Okay! Here it is:
Nature---you know, the green parts of earth with all the trees and mountains in it and the rivers and all---is actually rather pretty.
I KNOW! If you have been reading this blog for a long time, you may remember that whole thing about me Not Liking Songs and remaining pitifully unmoved by The Wondrous Beauty of the Earth and how among my inner circle it is Universally Acknowledged that I am Dead Inside? (If you are new, run read this before continuing.)
You're back? And no doubt thinking less of me. BUT, tree fans and stream lovers everywhere will be pleased to know that I MAY have have taken three tiny, baby steps toward experiencing a conversion. Yes, indeedy! Something happened this trip that made my wizened wisp of ectoplasmic fluff gasp and stretch itself a little toward the sun --- just like a REAL SOUL!
Before I ever left, my publicist sent me an e-mail and asked if I wanted to take the train from CT to Boston, because otherwise I would have to fly on an 8 seater turbo-prop. I replied, "I ain't afraid a' no little tiny planes." So after a SMASHINGLY FUN dinner (the CT Indie-bookstore-folks were a REALLY fun crowd, and my editor came along too and my agent and a couple of my ALL TIME FAVORITE PEOPLE from Warner and we ate at possibly the second best restaurant on the planet --I had this swordfish and it came with BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO so subtle and evocative that the Lord must have been personally guiding the hand of an already preternaturally gifted chef) BUT AFTER ALL THAT....pause to inhale...I went to the airport and climbed onto the Smallest Plane in the Universe. There was NO CO PILOT. There was just a guy named ERIC with a MAP and a COMPASS.
But ERIC IS VERY COOL -- he let me SIT UP IN THE CO-PILOT'S chair. I was terrified of TWITCHING and swiping some vital control and sending us all plummeting forthwith to our spectacular doom, so I folded myself up into the smallest possible wad and sat there barely daring to breath while Eric clicked around 6 zillion incomprehensible levers. I saw I had two PEDALS under my feet and I said to him, "SO that's the gas the that's the brake, but where is the GEAR SHIFT?" and he looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted a thick purple forked tongue and waggled it at him until he realized I WAS KIDDING.
Then we took off. Magical, magical, magical---literally. Science did not have anythign to do with it. Physics was distant and uninvolved. I feel very certain that a fleet of teeny medicine men was secreted in the wing storage compartment, flogging the air with the bodies of freshly killed sparrows to create massive amounts of "lift Juju." Because we just took off and flew straight up into the sky. I wanted so badly to lift my hands up but I was too scared of that whole "Whanging an instrument panel and causing us all to die" thing.
Once we were up, I couldn't stop GOOGLING AROUND like the world's biggest airborne tourist. I spent the whole flight just LOOKING AT NATURE even though I was HALFWAY through a fantastic book I was dying to get back to (BROKEN FOR YOU, by Stephanie Kallos). We stayed at about 700 feet, flying near the river, over gorgeous fields of frozen woods.
I saw the cape off to my right, watched Boston grow on the horizon, and we flew over it and then turned back and approached from the other side. Eric angled us downwards and I watched the ground coming up to meet us, and I wasn't scared at all, it seemed PERFECT, and when we touched, it was like the plane was a Jesus Bug and the runway was water, we SKIMMED our way back onto the earth, lightly, lightly, and I, Princess Dead Inside, was crying like a GREAT. BIG. DORK.
Then I was in BOSTON, but I have to tell you about that tomorrow.
I haven't had a working connection since, well, whenever I uploaded the last thing I uploaded. I JUST got off the plane, but tomorrow I shall get all the things I wrote on the laptop transferred here.
I think my brain just disintergrated. Must go to bed and grow a new one.
Friday afternoon, my Mental Illness Number put on tights and wore its underpants on the outside and donned a cape and went zuh-zuh-zzzzooming skyward. I have not been blogging due to serious Mental Illness, and you have NO CHOICE but to excuse me. I have a NOTE! Here tis:
Please excuse Joshilyn from blogging. She's been Mentally Ill.
Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona
Surgeon General of the United States of America
Of course, I FORGED this note, but I forged MANY notes that said the same thing only with "gym" instead of blogging and "cramps" instead of mental illness, BUT THOSE NOTES WORKED IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, so I feel this one will work here.
I AM FEELING MUCH BETTER NOW, THANKS!
I think I have a brain like a squirrel. I am not saying that my brain is like unto a squirrel's brain. I am saying my brain is like a whole alive actual squirrel. Have you noticed how squirrels always appear to be VERY VERY BUSY? You never see a squirrel being CONTEMPLATIVE. You never see a squirrel LOUNGING AROUND or engaging in ANYTHING that could even remotely be described as Zen.
Squirrels Run and Find Out.
Squirrels Do Things.
Sometimes---MANY times --- the things make no external sense, like they go and bury a bunch of nuts all over but they have about four brain cells so they never remember WHERE. Or they run back and forth across the power lines from one identical tree to another, back and forth, until they wear away the insulation and electrocute themselves and go plummeting dead to the earth and for the VERY FIRST TIME SINCE BIRTH, they sit STILL. Pointless, but it doesn't matter. What matters is this: The squirrel is BUSY.
Due to all the PHYSICAL illness, my squirrel was forced into quietness and isolation and it wigged RIGHT THE HECK OUT.
So, since I am physically VIABLE again, I spent the weekend pampering the squirrel. I took it skating and it to lift weights until it was flooded with pleasurable endorphins, I let it get into some SERIOUS revisions of an older MS that I really believe could be a kick-butt pneumatic book one day, I played game after game of scrabble, I watched TV while playing computer games and talking on the phone (the squirrel LOVES to watch TV while playing computer games and talking on the phone) and it all worked. The squirrel is now running endlessly and happily in the rotating wheel of my skull, and THIS IS GOOD!
Because tomorrow I go back on the road for the last leg of the pre-sales tour, and I suspect these dinners would tend to go better -- just theoretically -- but I REALLY suspect they'll go better if I am not toe-suckingly OFF MY NUT.
SO! Travel Sans Mercy again tomorrow, which means SMART CONVERSATION ABOUT BOOKS with SMART, FUNNY, WELL-READ PEOPLE, and a STATE OF THE ART GYM in every hotel! HUZZAH! If THAT doesn't keep the squirrel out of bars, nuthin' will!
I'll talk to you next from the plane....
I FEEL BETTER! ALERT THE MEDIA!
Yesterday was the FIRST DAY that I didn't look like I had been made entirely out of spit and white paper. (DIGRESSION: I wonder who makes paper-spit people? Probably artisan gnomes. Well, the ones who created Bacterial Bronchitis Me (now with more phlegm!) have diseased gray spittle and are not nearly as skilled as they think they are. ) But yesterday I looked like I had been made with clean, fresh gnome spittle, at least, and TODAY I look like a PERSON instead of a craft project gone horribly awry. So. I have decided...to live!
My hosting service, I JUST discovered, provides all this STATISTICAL information, the purpose of which seems to be amusing me. It tells me things like what KEYWORDS at Google are leading people to Faster Than Kudzu. Here are some of the search strings that brought people to my site just in the LAST THREE DAYS:
"maple syrup chemical weapon" --- um, OKAY.
"molds to make pajamas for yorkies" -- Believe it or not, I am the ONLY link this search produces. HEH!
"beautiful cake in the world murdering spree" -- Believe it or not, I am NOT the only link this string produces...
"oh! my goddess books froo online" --- I especially like the exclamation point. For when it is a search you are REALLY! REALLY! excited to make!
"how does kudzu effect you" -- Is this a trick question? Kids today, what WON'T they smoke....
I also am getting MULTIPLE people coming here via searches for "Hoover Dam," "Hoover Dam Facts," and, one especial pet favorite googler searched for, "Hoover DAMN Facts." This is SO ironic, Allanis Morrisette could write a whole NEW song about it; people with a virtuous and sincere desire to learn all about the Hoover Dam are clicking to a blog entry about REFUSING to learn ANYTHING about the Hoover Dam even under duress.
It's rainy here, it has BEEN rainy here, no one has seen the SUN for 36 hours, and everyone is getting confused.
The pop-up image proof is here.
See? Macaroni and cheese. That's LUNCH. That thing should be awake.
And here is my YARD at 2 PM yesterday. More pop-up proof.. That thing should be ASLEEP. (Also, that thing should not turn its head all the way around backwards. UGH! Heads turning around backwards is UPSETTING.)
Head-on-backwards-ness aside, I am rather pleased to have a GIANT OWL in my backyard. He is perhaps the universe's STUPIDEST owl -- it's 2 in the AFTERNOON for goodness sakes, and he must have ordered his nocturnal inctincts clock off the back of a box of Fruity Mouse Puffs. But he is sleek and fat for all that. This is not an owl who is missing lunch most days. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Simon Michael’s rodent-y brethren...hopefully BEFORE they get in my house and run their foul, hanta-coated bodies all along the wainscotting.
There is the BEGINNING of a VERY interesting discussion over at BUZZ BALLS and HYPE (MJ Rose's blog). If you are a writer (or if you are interested in knowing the behind the scenes guts of how the profession of novelist actually WORKS), that blog is a fascinating read. Here is the entry in question... SKIP NOT THE COMMENTS!
I have not commented...I almost never do on the industry blogs I haunt. I generally don't feel qualified to speak on the topics that come up as I am still 2.5 months away from my first novel's release. I'm DEWY. I BELIEVE things. I speak in hyperbole and am all FERVENT and stuff. It's a bad mix when the base is ignorance. I am likely to have my cheek patted and be told I am awful cute for a fetus and to come and back and sit at the grown-up's table after the book comes out and I have tasted the heady mix of hydrogen, oxygen, and environmental toxins that lies outside of the protective womb of "SOLD BUT NOT YET PUBLISHED." But HERE at Faster than Kudzu, where I CLEARLY don't MIND looking like a dork, I am going to join the discussion.
The question, for you incorrigibly click-shy link abstainers, is: What WON'T YOU DO to get a book deal, or for those already book dealed, to get your next MS approved, accepted, slated for publication. Not in the SLEEP WITH ROBERT REDFORD FOR A MILLION DOLLARS way, (DIGRESSION: That's a STUPID movie premise---most women would sleep with Robert Redford for a wink and a curried shrimp puff.) but in a "what creative line won't you cross, what won't you COMPROMISE" way.
My answer? NOT MUCH.
But. There is always a but, isn't there...I say "NOT MUCH" from my dewy, believing, fervent place of knowing only how one agent and one editor work. And they BOTH have recognized and supported my (and here I blush to say "artistic") goals for my novels (my agent for 4 novels now--- and my agent is an ex-editor who is not shy about asking for changes--- and my editor for 1.75 novels now---We are still doing edits on Between, Georgia, BUT WE ARE GETTING CLOSE!) I get the idea that this is OFTEN not the case. But since for me right now it IS, my answer remains...not much.
In the editing process for both gods and Between, I had a strong sense that my editor understood and liked what I was doing and wanted to help me do it BETTER. Therefore, my attitude has been that ANY criticism my editor makes is invaluable and MUST be heeded. I don't mean I feel I had to do whatever she said, yes boss, *genuflect* yes boss. In fact, I may have radically different ideas about how to RESOLVE whatever her issue is, but THAT is where the discussion takes place...on the level of how the problem can best be addressed. It's a waste of my time and hers to argue on the level of
NO PROBLEM IS HERE.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm Toni Collette, she's Haley Joel Osment, and if she sees dead people, I need to begin researching exorcisms.
EXAMPLE: In Between, Georgia, she did not like my last five or six sentences. The closing image didn't resonate with her. Left her cold. And I read this in her editorial letter and I stood up and I said to the letter, LETTER! I said ARE YOU ON CRACK?!?!?!
I dialed her immediately because GACK! I could see it SO CLEARLY, it was PERFECT, it was GLEAMING, it was DRIPPING GLORY, I had drafted the last fifty pages of the book in a BLAZING WASH OF BAD SENTENCES that took WEEKS of revision before I could even let her SEE them because I rushed through them SO FAST so I could GET to this end and type in the lines I could ALREADY SEE riding white horses toward me from the roseate horizon. I blush to confess that when I FINALLY got to the end and could at LAST grace the page with those lines I burst into tears, rose from my pnuematic office chair, and LEAPT around the house---LEAPT, I tell you, as in JUMPED, as in LITERALLY made two circuits of the house in such a manner that I either had two feet on the ground or was airborne.
THE ENDING (forgive me, forgive me) WAS GLORIOUS.
In my head.
In fact I was so in love with its theoretical beauties that I didn't realize how MUCH I had failed to do THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BOOK to allow the reader to recognize what the image means, and I was so dazzled by its white-hot gleaming perfection as it revolved enticingly in my brain that I didn't describe it HALF near well enough. I said enough to revive it in all its RADIANT GORGEOSITY in MY head, but the words were touchstones for ME because I already knew what it looked like. A touchstone can only recreate, it can't create, so the image as it stood was only effective for people who had previously seen and understood the image in their own imagination. Assuming my target audience is not PSYCHIC IMAGE-SUCKING VAMPIRES...yeah.
I saw in the editorial letter that she had a problem with the end, and so---after I was finished making the letter take a pee test---I took it on faith that A PROBLEM WAS THERE. Sure enough... on a fresh read-through...I could SEE it.
MAN, but it's a LONG TRIP, from the brain to the page.
To return to the initial question... I don't know what I would do if my situation was different, if I had an editor who either couldn't see or wasn't interested in what I was trying to accomplish and who asked me cut out what I see as the book's living, breathing heart in favor of a more commercial formula, and if I refuse, that's okay, thanks, have a nice career. Elsewhere.
I'd LIKE to say I am FILLED TO THE BRIM with artistic vigor! and principles! and glare down my nose at lesser, more malleable mortals, shrieking, "SELL OUTS! HACKS!" But...it is VERY easy to brim when you are a stay-at-home-mom who's used to living on ONE income, and you aren't in charge of MAKING it. One's artistic rigor-level is probably different if your family DEPENDS on your writing income to buy little luxuries like bread and medicine. And while I am SO HAPPY that Scott is home right now to be SUPER DAD while I am touring, I am ALSO glad he is job hunting, and will go back to work when I am home again.
It's a question I don't have to know the answer to this year, and I may be a fetus in this industry, but I am savvy enough to recognize that I am luckyluckylucky. And for this, I am gratefulgratefulgrateful.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to go mail a letter.
(DEAR KARMIC WHEEL,
I am kind to little animals! And babies!
I promise if I stay lucky, I will stay grateful!
Sincere love from YER FREND!
Beautiful Maisy, still mostly two, is a blooming artist. I have embedded her art as pop-ups.
She said this is her DAD.
She said This is ME (mom).
She said THIS is "a scary Mon-ser."
Be honest -- if we were to pick up the three and shuffle and flip them back over, could you tell WHICH was the scary mon-ser and which are...HER PARENTS. Probably not, huh. We all kinda look like rabid balloon animals.
The trick is, keeping the child psychologists away until her art skillz improve and, ONE ASSUMES, she will begin to DIFFERENTIATE. At least a little.