Over at The Zero Boss, there used to be a great contest called Blogging for Books. The Boss, he got busy, and he isn't having it, no, nevermore. I judged it once. Heck, I entered it once, and did not win, even though I entered what is probably my all time favorite blog entry ----the one where me and Joyce Carol Oats make out with a flight attendant who looks like Michael Chabon while crammed in an airplane restroom....ANYWAY. I hate to see a good contest die, so I am going to guest host it for a couple of months, until he comes to his senses and yoinks it back.
I hope I will be able to keep it going, but it IS time consuming. And In my copious spare time, I like to blink and go to the bathroom. Most days I have to choose between the two, because I can so seldom fit them BOTH in. Several enterprising souls have suggested I COMBINE blinking and going to the bathroom into a single, mega-fun leisure activity. It would be a lot like extreme sports, but with Charmin. I confess I have doubts. I am not quite co-ordinated enough for that.
So since I myself am well acquainted with THE BUSY, I have come up with a solution. DELEGATE! In The Zero Boss version of Blogging for Books (or B4B, as we in-the-know hipsters like to call it), he personally culled all the entries down to seven, and then a Special Guest Novelist would pick the winners in the traditional first, second, and third places. Since I am about to make like a lidless WASP and be thinking of England without having to close my eyes (because England will be all around me. It's hard NOT to think of England when you are standing in the middle of it, looking at it. It's impossible not to, actually. It would be like not thinking of the elephant. You know, once someone says DO NOT THINK OF THE ELEPHANT you immediately think of him. I bet you are thinking of the elephant right now...) ANYWAY! I am going to have a special guest blogger make the initial cut to seven. I may keep this feature, actually, and host a different novelist and blogger every month because I am not ready to completely forego blinking and the bathroom, and because, hey, there are some mighty fine bloggers out there that could use a little linky love, too.
Lord, I maybe shouldn't be in charge of this. I can't even get through the RULES without digressing my way into WASP mating rituals and elephants, which usually have VERY little to do with each other. Thankfully.
ANYWAY, B4B is COMING, so brace yourself, Bridget. Here's how it will work....
On the first Monday of the month (That's five days from now, Virginia...) I'll post a TOPIC. You then have until midnight on the FOLLOWING Monday to post a blog entry (no more than 2,000 words, please) about that topic on YOUR blog. A SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER will narrow the entries down to seven, and a SPECIAL GUEST AUTHOR will pick the winning three. First Place gets a signed first edition of the GUEST AUTHOR'S latest work and The Adoration of the Masses™, and the runners up get...um...let's say, some respect and The Mild Crush of the Masses™. Here's the FAQ, and the answer to whatever question you are currently experiencing probably resides there. Unless it is a question about The Elephant---oh look, you just thought of him AGAIN!
September's SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER is: Mir, of Would Coulda Shoulda (The natural choice, as she was the first ever winner of the first ever B4B contest.)
PS: Zero Boss used to have a kindly person who would post essays from NON-BLOG-HAVING would-be winners who wanted to write an essay and enter. I need such a person for here. If you are him/her, say so. We will all think you are pretty.
PPS: Any smarty-pants worth his/her standardized test results can probably get a JUMP ON THE GAME by figuring out what the contest topic will be.
PPPS: A hint to what the topic will be is in the above links.
PPPPS: Um, no. NOT the Joyce Carol Oats/Mile High club link.
PPPPPS: You filthy-minded thing.
Meet Julie Kenner. She is having a good day.
Her novel, Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom is a BookSense Top Ten Summer Paperback Pick for 2005. The book was also selected as a Target "Breakout Book" and has held the Number One slot on Barnes & Noble's SF/Fantasy trade overall bestseller list for seven weeks and counting. CARPE DEMON has also been optioned for film, and is currently in development at Warner Brothers, with 1492 Pictures (you know, the folks that did Harry Potter) producing.
That, my friends, is a pertty dern good day.
I picked it up last week when I was on a book run, but I am kinda saving it and a couple of others I snagged for the PLANE. The flight to London is 8 hours and change, and I am a veteran insomniac, so I imagine I am going to need atleast three highly diverting books to avoid hanging myself in that tiny little foul smelling toilet cubicle. I liked what Publisher's Weekly had to say about the book...
"What would happen if Buffy the Vampire Slayer got married, moved to the suburbs and became a stay-at-home mom? She'd be a lot like Kate Connor, once a demon/vampire/zombie killer and now "a glorified chauffeur for drill-team practice and Gymboree play dates" in San Diablo, Calif., that's what. But in Kenner's sprightly, fast-paced ode to kick-ass housewives, Kate finds herself battling evil once again..."
I sat virtually down with Julie and yacked with her for a little about her latest brain-child...
JJ: This book is I believe your twentieth? And it has really taken off -- bigtime Cristopher Columbus-y movie deals, best seller lists --- did you know when you were writing it this was your break out book?
JK: I knew it had potential (the movie deal happened on 3 chapters and a synopsis, so that not only gave me insight into the marketability, but also added a nice little level of performance anxiety, LOL). I also knew that it had a nice, solid hook, and I knew (thought/hoped) that it would have broad appeal to women, especially moms. But at the same time, I have written a lot of books, and the learning curve in this biz is steep. Nothing is a sure thing. (Still, I was certainly hopeful that the book would make a splash!!!)
JJ: This book keeps getting compared to a grown-up Buffy, and, um, I worship at the perfume-scented feet of Joss Whedon. In other words, you had me at Hello. Tell me, is Whedon an influence?
JK: Yes, and no. I love, love, love the first 3 seasons of Buffy, so I know I've absorbed Whedonisms, just as I've absorbed Bewitchedisms and Jeannieisms. (I fell out of love with the series when the college years started, and have seen only a scattered few from seasons 4-7. I know! Slap me around! -- but I have them on DVD and plan to watch!). And as far as I know, Whedon was the first to put vampires (and demons) into suburbia. So there are definitely influences. (And I don't mention Buffy in the book on purpose, even though the book has a lot of pop culture references. I don't want the reader "jumping" b/w the worlds, if that makes sense.)
The truth is I (being somewhat tunnel-visioned at time) while realizing the *concept* was marketable, didn't actually realize the *Buffy grown up* marketing hook until I'd already finished the book, or was pretty close (I don't exactly remember when the V-8 moment came). And it never occurred to me to use that as a marketing tool (duh) until Charlaine Harris said essentially that in her cover quote (That was a wonderful surprise, getting that quote! I adore her Sookie books!). There is a reason I didn't choose a career in marketing, no?
JJ: I FREAKING LOVE YOUR COVER---Did you have any input or how did that cover come about?
JK: It's fabulous, isn't it? And the one for the sequel sounds awesome too (haven't seen it though ...). But to answer your question, the extent of my input was: "Julie, have you got any ideas for the cover?" and me responding, "Um, no." (Sigh. They ask. And I have nothing to say ... How pathetic is that?). My editor told the art department she wanted something completely different. And they totally delivered!
I have correspondence now.
IMMEDIATE DIGRESSION: This blog is supposed to be about "how do you and how should I sign off on letters" and you know what? I need to take a poll pretty much, because it seems to me there is not a very good way to close a letter. SO, I am going to get there. Eventually. But I typed, "I have correspondence now" and my brain started yammering about GODS HAS BEEN OUT FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AND THE NEW HAS COME OFF AND IS MY LIFE DIFFERENT? Subquestions: IF NO, WHY NOT and IF YES, HOW, and a partial answer to that question is in the spawning thought, aka: I have correspondence now.
I have not had CORRESPONDENCE, really, since I got to the 337th of the 350 thank you notes* I owed the Universe after my LARGE! TRADITIONAL! SOUTHERN! WEDDING!, and by this I mean, we did it RIGHT with the registering at Dillard's, and a shrimp tree at the reception, and the 5 foot by 4 foot bridal portrait in a HUGE gilded frame that still hangs all oil-paint-sheened and proper in my mother's formal living room, and I got a PAPER TROUSSEAU okay?
Half of you don't even know what a paper trousseau is, and in a way, I envy you this, because I was the victim of a large and formal southern wedding,** which means I have several complete sets of china in various patterns and formal-ness levels, and so the Paper Trousseau was put to immediate post-wedding use...and use and use and use and use and use, thank you note after thank you note on the heavy, creamy, embossed and monogrammed paper, until the day came when I threw my pen across the room and hurled myself weeping onto the carpet where I foamed and writhed like worm dropped onto a hot griddle.
Scott took my chair and started to write the last notes for me, but I howled, NO NO THE BRIDE HAS TO DO IT!! STOP! STOP! and banged my head on the floor, and then he leaned down and whispered six beautiful words to me. At the time I felt they must be the most beautiful words in the English language. I mean, they weren't anything special, really, but to my bleeding ears they were a love song, a poem, a freakin' a SHAKESPEARE sonnet, and they cemented my permanent gratitude and guaranteed my affections would linger for a thousand years, should we live so long: "Baby," he said to me, "I can forge your signature."
As we loaded the last of the thank you notes into the mailbox together, I clutched his arm and said, "WE CAN NEVER GET DIVORCED. EVER. Because eventually, I would get remarried, and some cruel vartlet would feel the need to present me and my new husband with some sort of PLATE, and as GOD IS MY WITNESS, I can never write a thank you note for a plate again. I will DIE. I will literally have a brain spasm and drop lifeless to the floor. Immediately. There are only so many ways one can enthusiastically and with different grammar and reasoning express one's delight over a salad, dinner, or dessert plate, and Baby, I have been down every possible avenue of plate-delight-expressing. I can be delighted by plates nevermore. SO. No divorce, and PS, I get to die first."*
Of course that's a facile answer, and I think I am going to try to answer this question MORE BETTER over the next week (unless, of course, something shiny runs by. Something wearing pink socks, maybe??? Heh.) But no, it's worth blogging about I think especially with this DREAM trip coming up and because it is becoming a(n) FAQ. SO I WILL. But today I am concerned about letter closers because one thing that IS different is I have so much more GENUINE correspondence, and by that I mean, things that need to be written on pretty paper with a black pen and sealed and stamped and sent via boats and ponies to
1) Weird Luddite Friends who refuse to acknowledge THERE IS AN INTERNET NOW. Or
2) Folks in my business who have been so beautiful and kind to me that e-mail won't do. Or
3) People who enjoyed the book and were thoughtful enough to tell me so in writing on stationary. Or
4) Warner or Conference/Event people who need a real actual signature on a paper contract. Or
5) Folks who are also being mailed an object that cannot be sent electronically, like a signed copy of gods for a charity auction.
And I never know how to sign off on these things. Here are the choices so far:
ALL BEST --- In New York, they almost all use ALL BEST, or BEST, or some variation thereof. It's like a secret New York insider sign off. I've seen it on letters from a HORDE of established authors and agents and editors (I get letters from them asking for blurbs) and publicists. I picked it up and used it for a bit, and still do every now and again because...okay this is SO dorky. But. It makes me feel cool. Cool like Fonzi, you know, like I am In Crowdy and can take meetings in the bathroom. But....It's like trying on Prada: Sexy as all get out, but in a playing-dress-up way. Not my real life. Not my real verbiage. I can't take myself seriously when I use it because I KNOW I am just frontin' like a playa, which is another thing I can't say and take myself seriously.
WARMLY --- This is new---seems to be the new trendy way for WOMEN to sign off. I am seeing this a LOT and it seems friendly and personal, which I like, but but somehow the word "Warmly" has bad connotations for me. It makes me think of "MOISTLY" and "DAMPLY" and the hot, pale, sweat-dewed palms of the kind of puffy-handed man that ALWAYS puts a hand on the small of your back as he ushers you into a room, and you KNOW later you will find a damply creased print of his covert pawings on the silk. YARG! Yes. It is a personal problem. So, nice as "warmly" is, it isn't for me.
SINCERELY --- See also Cordially, Regards, and Best Regards. The old standby business closers. Too stiff and formal.
CHEERS --- Cheerful, also friendly, but sounds like I would rather be drinking. Which is probably be true, but do I have to let everyone KNOW that? Also it may be too INFORMAL and chatty and perky and... NOT BRIGHT? Like I bet if DOGS wrote letters they would sign them "CHEERS!" right before becoming so excited about the WALK! to the MAILBOX! that they pee all over the carpet.
YOURS --- I like yours, but only if I feel a personal connection with the person. It's too INFORMAL for regular use.
So far Cheers is winning....What do you use? What am I MISSING? Do you even NOTICE closers? Obviously, I do....Oh well. Suggestions appreciated.
* If you attended my LARGE! TRADITIONAL! SOUTHERN! WEDDING! and gave me, God help you, a plate, let me just reiterate that in spite of the hyperbolic plate vitriol I spewed above, I DID appreciate your thoughtfulness, and if I did not write your thank you note FIRST, then I heartily apologize for whatever addled mush I spewed at you about it on my paper trousseau. Sample:
Dear Friend and/or Relation!
Scott and I are ecstatic with the crisp elegance of the Lennox McKinley Salad Plate you so thoughtfully bestowed upon our plate-less home! We like to sit around and take turns licking it! Sometimes, I will hide it behind my back and suddenly spring it on him, just WHIP IT OUT, you know, and he will fall to his knees, blinded by its....did I say crisp elegance already?? ANYWAY! THANK YOU! You have a beautiful white soul!
Love! (Or Yours Or perhaps Cordially!)
Joshilyn and Scott!
It was only that I wanted you to have an INDIVIDUAL, SPECIAL NOTE ALL YOUR OWN, a note in which I did not say to you something I had already said to someone else. I hate form letters, even hand written ones. And
** I know I said "victim of a large traditional southern wedding" but that was, for the record, a joke. I loved my wedding. I, in fact, ADORED my wedding and would do it again exactly the same, yes, even the pink bridesmaids dresses, even the circlet of roses headpiece, yea down unto the very last shrimp on the shrimp tree, and you know what? I STILL FREAKING LOVE THOSE MCKINLEY PLATES! AND THEY ARE CRISPLY ELEGANT. So. There.
Me: My love for you is like a snowflake.
Him: Melting? Damp and chilled?
Me: No, more like, you know, unique and um, but not cold. Bah, maybe not. Maybe my love for you is like Maisy's faviorite bear?
Him: Pink and abandoned on the floor?
Me: Well, pink anyway.
Him: That's nice.
Me: *makes encouraging eyebrows*
Me: *makes bigger encouraging eyebrows*
Me: And your love for me is like...
Him: Oh. Hrm. A newt.
Me: A big newt?
Him: Yes. A big newt that has crawled up to the top of the tank and is clinging to the screen. ***DIGRESSION: The biggest newt, Fig, DOES THIS NOW. His gills dropped off and now he goes up on the island and breathes AIR and tries to get out the top and clings to the screen with his creepy little newty feet. UGH!***
Me: Clinging desperately?
Him: Yes. Desperately.
Me: That's nice. My love for you is like the pancakes I made this morning out of that mix I got at the wackjob organic food consortium.
Me: Nutrative! And soaked in sweetness!
Him: That's nice.
Me: *makes in encouraging eyebrows*
Me: And your love for me is like?
Him: Still a newt.
Me: A constant newt?
Me: A newt that is tired of similes?
Him: That's the one.
Me: *leaps off his lap* Then let's go clean out the garage!
Me: TO THE GARAGE|!
Him: Wait! Wait but, my love for you is like---
Me: Where are the boxes? Where are the black bags? We must keep a list for taxes because this will all go to the Salvation Army! Get dressed! Rally the children! I'll find a legal pad for the list! Put that Hot Ladies of the 80's perky motivational bebop CD in!
Him: *grumble* Should have stuck with the similes...
OKAY I am 500 years behind on email and life and everything else, so if you e-mailed me in the last 2 weeks and are wondering if I died...I didn't. This is me, typing from NOT the beyond. I WILL catch up this weekend, it's only that I am just trying to get ready to leave the country and really, it's amazing the crap that needs to get done. This morning I hope to at some point clean at least one spoon and a bowl so I can have some breakfast, but if I do not, I guess it's fine because also on my list here for things to do by 2 PM this afternoon I see "lose five pounds and then go buy a cocktail dress." So.
My part of the auction to raise money for Marianne Mancusi went for like 500 bucks... THANK YOU NICE, BIDDER. That's like half a refrigerator! I am going to compose a song in your honor, tentatively titled, "Nice Bidder, You Are Awesome."
Me? I am intimidated.
Last night I said, to Scott, "This song about the nice bidder is not very good so far. Maybe it has too many notes? Maybe I should learn to play an instrument and also get a drop of musical talent? GAH, okay crit and book, but I can't think of anything I could do for this person that would be worth 500 bucks.
Scott: Well, I can. But if you did it, I would be mad.
Me: I'm sorry, was that a joke? Because I didn't get it. Could you say it again? Slower? In a really deep voice, kinda like Barry White?
Note to Mom: WAS that a joke? Because I REALLY did not get it. Pinky swear.
1) I want to legally change my name to chicken child. Yes, with no capitol C's.
2) I have nothing to blog about. Some days, I can easily let flow 1,000 words on a single butt hair left by a plain brown dog on a beige rug. Today? The whole dog could come in and sit at my desk smoking Pall Malls and making prank phone calls to dead celebrities, and I would slump here in my chair saying, "DOG! CAN YOU HANG UP PLEASE? I AM TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO BLOG ABOUT AND YOUR INCESSANT BARKBARKBARK-ING IS GETTING ON MY NERVES. ALSO? I CAN TELL YOU FROM HERE THAT NO, ELVIS'S REFRIGERATOR IS NOT RUNNING, AND JIM MORRISON DOES NOT HAVE PRINCE ALBERT IN A CAN. OKAY? OKAY???
3) The only thing worth eating in all of life is grits and cheese and tomato pie. Nothing else tastes good, nothing else ever has, nothing else ever will.
(It should here be noted that I have a single serving of grits/cheese/tomato pie, but it is QUESTIONABLE. I do not remember WHEN I made it. I do not, in point of fact, remember making it all, which makes me suspect that I made it QUITE some time ago. On the other hand, there is no visible mold and it smells innocuous. On a third [somewhat creepy] hand [because most things have either two or four, so third hand is a little....ugh, anyway,] on this rather creepy third hand, it has EGGS in it. It seems to me that if I do not eat it, I will die of starvation because nothing else in all the universe is remotely nice, and that if I do eat it, it will surely cause my internal organs to liquify and run out through my pores, which will hurt and also probably make me not smell good. So clearly I cannot choose the cup in front of YOU, etc etc.)
4) I want to be named Cornelia Read. Because THEN my name would be CORNELIA READ, which is so AUTHORIAL and UNUSUAL and yet is pronounced just as it is spelled. If I decide NOT to go with chicken child, Cornelia Read would be a good second choice. I say WOULD BE because it is NOT actually a good choice as it is already taken by a VERY fine writer named....yes, Cornelia Read, as the budding detectives among you may have already deduced using your innate detective deductivism. ANYWAY, I just finished the galleys for her debut novel last night and I say unto thee, REMEMBER the name Cornelia Read because 1) her work is funny and smart and dark and amazing and intense and 2) because it may be my name later if I don't pick chicken child and you will need to know it to find me. Or her.
***We interrupt these five things that seem true today but are probably not true to tell you one thing that seems true today and will actually remain true through all forseeable tomorrows: Cornelia Read's debut, FIELD OF DARKNESS, is hands down the best mystery/thriller I have read this year, or the year before, or really since Dennis LeHanes last Patrick and Angela novel. Yes. She's that good. I'll give you a heads up when it comes out. Now, back to it.***
5) I do not want a brand new hairdo, I don't care if my eyelashes curl, I am so far from floating on air I might as well call all walking I cannot avoid today "bitter mud-slogging" and I DO NOT ENJOY BEING A GIRL.
I married an ex-comic book geek. Actually, he's a little wobbley on the EX part. He still has boxes and boxes of the things, each in a protective plasticene sleeve, and whenever we get together with the Wilsons, he and Kevin dive deep into huge debates about who drew the X-Men best, and when did it or has it or will it jump the shark, and when did it UN-jump, and how the Jane to Phoenix transmogrification storyline was historically and cannonically one of the BEST in the long history of comic book transmogrifications, and eventually there will come a moment where NO ONE ELSE at the table can follow the conversation, not even a little bit --- I mean --- Scott and Kevin may as well be speaking SWAHILI, there is no way to decipher meaning, because we SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT WOLVERINE'S BACKSTORY. And we never, never will.
This is a man who walked out of Batman Begins and said, with NO IRONY, "That movie violated the true spirit of the real batman less than any Batman movie ever made."
And you know what? I have had my moments. In Chicago, I once an entire weekend squatting in the stairwell of grad student housing drinking milk-and-grand-marnier hot toddies while I read every issue of DOOM PATROL that Grant Morrison wrote. BECAUSE COME ON. You have to love a guy that replaces the hackneyed BROTHERHOOD OF EVIL with a band of villians called THE BROTHERHOOD OF DADA. Also, Crazy Jane's pre-doomed almost-love with Metal Man was astonishingly lovely---when she could be one person long enough to feel it....
Yeah, um...did anyone but Scott and Kevin Wilson follow that? Didn't think so. Perhaps I should look at the beam of geek in my own eye before I begin picking at Scott's nice motes.
ANYWAY. I have graphic novels on the brain because it's a GCC day. and I am terribly interested in the book (yes that's singular) and the writers (yes that's plural) I'm introducing today, for three reasons.
1) The book uses some elements of a graphic novel, and yet it's by double X chromosome types. Not to be sexist here, but (my Grant Morrison hero Worship aside) that's usually so much more of a GUY thing.
2) It's a successful NOVEL collaboration----two writers, one novel. That doesn't happen much in novels, Perri O'Shaughnessy aside.
3) NEITHER in spite of NOR because of points one and two, it sounds like an entertaining book with a smart, appealing heroine. And let me tell you, I just finished Jodi Picault's My Sister Keeper last night. Or should I say, it finished me. AT 11:30 I found myself turning the last page, and then I lay on the floor sobbing, turned inside out, not sure if I wanted to kill Jodi Picault or BE her because, okay, it's a gorgeous book with a huge heart, gorgeously written, gorgeously realized, but OH MY LORD, it's a book you should take with Prozac. You should literally get a blisterpack of Prozac attached to the inside flap, especially if you are a mother, and you know what? TODAY I WANT TO READ SOMETHING FUNNY AND SMART WITH PICTURES, OKAY? This looks like PERFECT escapist fiction, and I want to escape. I'm buying this book today while I am out cocktail dress shopping:
Shaking her Assets
It was a day like any other in Gotham, until...
In the interest of cost-cutting, editorial work at the high-end housewares tome The Byzantium Catalog has been "redistributed," thereby relieving Rachel Chambers of her duties. Meanwhile, the evil "other woman" relieves Rachel of her boyfriend of two years. But all is not lost. A business idea that starts off as a joke between Rachel and her friend Ben starts to take off. And suddenly her misadventures take on a life of their own when the art director at her temp job turns her into a comic-book superhero. Suddenly Rachel is taking the New York social scene by storm---remorselessly tossing aside losers and nay-sayers in her never-ending quest for Success. And her man-eating alter-ego has got her believing that she just might be able to pull this off in real life...though maybe without the cone-shaped bra...
Here's the thing that's especially appealing to me--I've read about four reviews of this book that I found googling around and they've all been positive reviews, saying things like it's fun and entertaining and etc, so yay and all, but more to the point, each one of them comments AT LENGTH on the smart, savvy double smart likable smartness of the protagonist. I AM READY FOR THAT, okay? HERE ME, OH WRITER'S OF CHICK-LIT. I am READY for a smart, savvy heroine. And I am not alone. There's this trend in comic women's fiction to go for the laugh at the expense of character, and too many times I have gone to get me something delightful to escape-read with, and then suddenly, on page 39, I'll realize I've wasted half an hour of my life reading about a character who is TSTL (too stupid to live), a character that I feel certain DARWIN will take care of fifteen pages after I close the book as she gambols in front of a truck at a moment when her inevitable Future-Super-Boyfriend takes his eyes off of her and pops into Starbucks for a latte. I get the strong and pleased feeling that that ain't going to happen in the capable hands of this pair of writers.
SO, I better shut up now and let them talk. Meet Robin Epstein and Renee Kaplan:
JJ: How does the partnership process work?
R&R: When we started working together, we really didn't know how we'd swing
co-writing a novel. We experimented with a number of options and
quickly ruled out the "every other word" method. But ultimately what we did,
was come up with a detailed outline for the book. We discussed
the characters, their traits, styles and backgrounds and we got on the same
page in terms of knowing how they'd react in any situation. Then once we
had the outline, we actually did split up chapters, odds and evens, and
when each chapter was finished, we'd e-mail it to the other person who'd
edit it then send it back to the original author. Any differences in
opinion thereafter we'd discuss together at a favorite cafe over tea and
JJ: I love the idea of having elements of a graphic novel in the book---how did
that come about?
R&R: As we were developing the book's characters, one of the main male
characters--Zach--turned out to be a graphic artist whose passion was comic
strip art. For us that seemed like a unique opportunity to bring a character
to life in a really vivid and original way. In fact, we bring multiple
characters to life, since Zach's comic strips depict the greatly exaggerated
adventures of our heroine's alter ego, Marilyn Manizer.Besides, when people
get a little tired of reading they can still stick around and look at the
JJ: Who did you dedicate the book to and why?
R&R: You're the first person to ask a question that we actually gave a lot of
thought. The answer is that we dedicated the book to no one in particular,
but thanked--and continue to thank--all the people, friends, colleagues,
collaborators and strangers who have contributed to the book's life. So the
book is really dedicated to them: to all those people who have shown such
encouragement, enthusiasm and kindness as we wrote, launched and tried to
raise our baby. Without all of that, all those positive support, this book
would not be here on our--and your!--shelf today.
IN A VERY SHORT TIME (read: September 3rd) I am going to begin ten days of something entirely new: Travel WITH mercy! Extremely merciful kind beautiful travel. By which I mean, my husband is coming with me. And my children are staying with my parents. WHEEE! And we are going to London for four days, and then ON A SIX DAY CRUISE from England back to NYC, because how else can I possibly gain six pounds in six days? And I SOMEHOW must find a way to replace the six pounds I have SO painstakingly carved from my unwilling body by an unforgiving and ceaseless exercise regime, the shunning of all processed sugar (except Chess Pie because FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I AM ONLY HUMAN) and the constant nibbling of organic produce.
I need to gain the weight back FASTFASTFAST because, as you know, my inherent value as a human being is based solely on what size pants I wear, and for a minute there, I almost had some self esteem! Tut tut! This is actually a BAD THING, because the smart-and-educated-adult-human-woman in me revolts against GETTING self esteem through smaller pants. SO! If I lose pounds, I gain self esteem, but lose self respect because I can't help but wonder what sort of a moron actually believes their pants = their value?
It's an equation---you have to solve for X where X is Lithium, like, “If Suzey loses 15 pounds and gains 4 self esteem notches while losing 6 units of self respect, how many milligrams of Lithium (x) will she need in order to become a functional human who can unpack the Kroger bags without weeping because she suddenly realizes SOME BLEAK-SOULED DEAMONSEED of a HELL-SPAWNED BAKER put HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP in the ONLY organic flax seed bread IN THE WHOLE STORE and she just paid FOUR BUCKS for the loaf...
This is the problem with mental illness: The math gets hard.
OH but the trip...I have been to London before, but not for a good 16 or 17 years. And my husband has never been. I am wildly excited. We have pre-booked an obscene number of West End shows as we are both HUGE theatre buffs. We are pretty much going every night we are there--- I am MOST excited about
ON THE CEILING. And then we want to go see the tower of London because Scott likes history and beheadings and I like outsize birds and equally outsize jewels. AND we'll go by my UK publisher and I’ll get to meet my UK Editor (!!!) And then get on the boat where I am The Very Special Guest Author™.
I hope this is not like being a Very Special Episode---I vow unto you now a most solemn vow that I will neither learn a valuable life lesson nor shall I attempt to inflict one upon others. BECAUSE THIS A CRUISE, PEOPLE. And no one wants anyone on a cruise to back the captain's thirteen year old perky daughter into a corner with a copy of Jane Eyre and badger the poor little thing until she bursts into tears and confesses, "I....I...I CAN'T READ!!!" I shall assume therefore that "very special" means "tells entertaining stories about the publishing industry and thw writing life and then later morphs into an amusing and possibly not entirely sober dinner companion." New Yorker Magazine and Cunard are sending me. WE LIKE THEM.
September is going to be a banner month. My friend Diane Thomas’s first novel will be released. I LOVE THIS BOOK! You’ll even see a blurb I wrote for it on the back cover. It’s a very special thing to me, because Diane was in my writing group. So I KNOW this is a dern good book because I helped her edit it as she was writing it----even as she was editing gods in Alabama for me. We’ve each heard each other’s books read out loud and discussed pacing and character and plot and language and theme and image maps...We were elbow deep in each others books, and YOU KNOW, this is something I say to people who are trying to write their first novel---GET A WRITING GROUP. I am blessed with SUCH a phenomenal writing group, and I really think it is invaluable---providing it is the RIGHT kind of group. It's NO GOOD if you sit there secretly feeling you are the best writer there and using that as balm for the inevitable misery/constant rejection you have to weather in this business. That kind of group won't help you get better, so it's less likely you will eventually sell a book, and more likely that you will NEED the balm. Vicious circle. You need to work with people who inspire you, people you admire and want to emulate, people whose work makes you strive to do better and try harder. People like Diane. She and her husband retired to the mountains, so she left us last year, but dernit the woman can WRITE.
And at LAST, next month, her book will be out. I know this has to be the longest August on record for her. BECAUSE OMG PUBLISHING IS SO SO SO SO SLOW. Forget the rabbit, turtles can out-run Publishing. Turtles in CHAINS. Terminally ill chained turtles with little turtle bloods dripping from their multiple mortal wounds have gotten into races with publishing, and look, I’m not saying it wasn't close. But the turtles gasped and flolloped and inched bleeding along neck and neck with publishing, but in the end, THE TURTLES WON. Hands down. Or feet down. Or paddley looking things down. Whatever turtles have. Publishing moves especially slowly when it is your very first book you are waiting on.
SO come beautiful September! Come soon. Because Diane needs her book to come out, and me? I just want to close my eyes and think of England.
FIRST, for the record, if 1) you thought Tuesday's entry was a TOUCH risque and 2) you are my mother (I suspect these two states of being will coincide), let me assure you that I did not actually GET Kira's joke about the Patriarch and Egypt, and indeed only included it because Mir said it was very funny and not to worry my pretty head about it.
Glad we cleared THAT up.
As you know, Oh My Best Beloveds, most of the GCC members (including me) have auctions up on E-Bay to raise money for one of our own who lost EVERYTHING but her dog in a lightening-meets-cottage-whoops-no-renter's-insurance accident. My auction for a signed first ed of gods in Alabama and a crit, is now over 100 bucks and I am rethinking it. On the one hand, it's flattering and more importantly, Marianne has NO earthly goods so, YAY! But then----YIKES! I have to come up with a crit so detailed and insightful that it is WORTH over 100 bucks. DOH! I am thinking I better go WORD BY WORD. So, if you WIN, perhaps your crit will look something like this:
"Her" --- Good word to begin a sentence with, as long as the subject of the sentence is female. If male, you might want to try "His." Or if the subject turns out to be, say, a spaceship or a rhododendron, "Its" is a handy word.
"canine" -- A little formal. Try "dog."
"teeth" -- Oh, wait. ix-nay on the og-day suggestion. That's fine then.
"were" --- Hmmm, I am suspicious of were and all related be verbs. Can an active verb go here?
"pointy," -- YES IT CAN! Cut the WERE and just say, "Her canine teeth pointed" which, wow, she must have some freakishly prehensile canine teeth! I am now very interested in this character! WELL DONE! But I am a very insightful reader, so you may want to help the less schooled out here and say UP FRONT that they are freakishly prehensile. Also? Maybe you should get some ADJECTIVES in there so we can better picture these acrobatic mouth pointers. I like PALLID AND VENOMOUS for her (or its or his, as the case may be) teeth, personally.
"indicating"-- AH good, I was dying to know what the teeth were pointing at, but indicated is FORMAL again and can probably be cut, because if they are pointing they are by definition indicating something. Let's now SURGE forward and see how the sentence ends...
"a randy nature." Hmmm, Well, little grammar foible here. A PROPER NOUN like "Randy Nature" needs caps and doesn't take an article, so cut the "a." Also, don't you think NATURE is a little...obvious for a last name? Like, let me guess. This Randy guy will be some sort of vegetarian tree enthusiast, RIGHT? Thought so. Try something a little less heavy handed. Like, Finkelbeir. OKAY so. Let's look at how this first sentence shapes up.
You had: Her canine teeth were pointy, indicating a randy nature.
Now it reads: Her pallid, venomous canine teeth pointed in a freakishly prehensile manner at Randy Finkelbeir.
Hey, I know. It's amazing what a pro can do. Stop crying! You are WELCOME, already! No, really, stop crying....
Bid early, bid often, and if I have just terrified you, there are PLENTY MORE THINGS up for grabs in the Marianne Mancusi Fire Fund Auction-Gallery of Charm.
1) I need two simple, small things to be completely happy for the rest of my life: A Quadspillion Dollars and for the powers that be to build a Whole Foods near me. OR actually, since I am going to have a Quadspillion dollars, the Whole Foods can stay where it is. I can just hire a man to drive me to Whole Foods and stand outside (sweating up the livery and holding my obligatory purse-dog) while I spend 20 bucks on a a pound and a half of organic cherries. OR I can buy a a small in-town home, like a FUNKISH LOFT that I can stay in when I venture into Atlanta to buy the cherries. We will "winter" in Maui, "summer" in Provence, and "Grocery" at Whole Foods. *sigh*
ACTUALLY I just need a 300 dollar a week grocery budget, which I can easily arrange to have by simply not paying my mortgage anymore. We will live in a box, but LORDY we will eat like KINGS!
HEY! NEW DIET!!! Want to eat yourself sick and still lose a pound in three days? All you have to do is sell some plasma and then go to Whole Foods and get the grilled asparagus salad, Vegetarian Stuffed Portabellos, Organic Cherries, Rudi's bread, Smoked Salmon Salad, a box of Cheese Crabby-Crab Spicy Mushroom Thing, and a lot of bottles of Mandarin orange Sparkling Mineral Water and red wine (for the anti-oxidants and the....Kira told me red wine has something else good in it. Like...I want to say "Funkanoids." That can't be right, can it? Funkanoids? Or maybe Flavonots? SOMETHING--I don't know what it is called or what it purportedly DOES for your healthiness, but Kira says it is GOOD FOR YOU and it is in RED WINE and so I choose to believe her. Fervently.) Eat all this stuff for three days, eat until you are SICK, eateateateat, screaming in ecstasy after every bite, then get tremulously on the scale after the 3 day party-of-eating is over and lo and behold. You'll be down a pound. Maybe screaming is ecstasy is aerobic? Whatever. Just sell the plasma.
2) Scott and I were sitting in the office trying to decide what plays we want to see in London (We are thinking ON THE CEILING and maybe THEATER OF BLOOD, but for the record we are BLACKLY SAD that THE TEMPEST is playing at the Globe the day before we arrive and the day after we leave but NOT ONCE while we are in town, and Kevin Spacey won't be Richard the Thirding while we are there either, BAH!) Sam was with us. SUDDENLY! We heard the unmistakable crash of glass shattering on a hardwood floor. The sound came from the dining room, and it was followed by a conspicuous silence.
I ran across the hall, yelling, "MAISY JANE, DO NOT MOVE! DO NOT TAKE ONE STEP!" because I knew that she was barefoot. We skidded to a stop and there stood our daughter, frozen in place, entirely surrounded by the remains of a crystal pitcher. She looked up at us, wide-eyed with panic, and before either of us could say a word, she hollered, "IT BROKE-DED BY IT'S OWN!"
I had to IMMEDIATELY turn my back and let Scott handle it because it would have been deadly to let her see that that I was practically suffocating myself trying not to laugh.
3) In the car, Kira and Mir and I were listening to a CD called THE PATRIARCH'S ONE TRUE PLAN or something. I got it for Scott to listen to, because it's a very handy instruction manual you men can use to stamp out vile feminism before it infests your home, and also explains why it is morally wrong to use birth control. Scott should just insist that I have as many babies as God wants me to have. Also, I should stop with all the BOOK WRITING NONSENSE because that's not actually very fulfilling for me like 12 or 14 babies would be. It was being handed out for free by a Concerned Citizen, and after I had heard it once and THOROUGHLY enjoyed the BIZARRO way the speaker pauses in between entirely inappropriate words (SAMPLE. AND!...THE MAN ...MUST!... SAY TO HIS...FAMILY! I...Have A...PLAN!!...AN UNDERSTANDING!..OF!...TRUTH!...Like THE PATRIRACHS!....OF!...THE OLD TEST!...AMENT!! etc etc) I REALLY wanted Scott to hear it too. I had this plan where I was going to be very sincere and ask him to listen to it and act like I thought it was all very smart and nifty, and see how long it took him to clue in that his chain was being yanked.
Alas, it never got out of the box. I oversold it---made the mistake of calling it "Life Altering " Scott immediately got the skeptical eyebrows and said, "Yeah. That's what they told the cat before his operation, baby. I'll pass."
SO ANYWAY, Mir and Kira and I were listening to it in the car and Mir was all, "They need to put this to MUSIC!" And you know, it DOES have kind of a catchy backbeat what with all the odd long pauses. And we listened a little more...
Preacher: AND! ... The Patriarch!... WENT DOWN!...
Kira: Suddenly I feel more amenable towards this whole "Patriarch" movement.
Preacher: ...INTO EGYPT!
Kira: Oh. Never mind.
We are all three going to hell...
So you know I am in the GCC...well. One of our members, a chick-lit writer named Marianne Mancusi (You kow her -- I interviewed her when A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court came out....) went out of town to do some book promo. She left her dog at her mom's and she came back to the cottage she'd been renting, this is what she saw:
Lightening hit it. Yikes. Now guess who didn't have renter's insurance. Heh.
Basically, she lost all her goods and services, LITERALLY every little object she owns that wasn't in her suitcase...Yarg. She lost all her socks. She lost her old old old t-shirts with the super thin cottom from 700 washings. She lost her salt and pepper shakers. She lost all her BOOKS, FOR THE LOVE OF A MERCIFUL GOD. She lost her stationary and her TV and her vintage car coaster set and her collector's edition scrabble deluxe box set, yea down unto the very last Q tile. She lost her sassy Vicky's secret Underpants and her all cotton get-away-from-me granny panties. She lost her emory boards and all her dish towels.
The GCC has been doing things to raise money to help her replace the little things that make life nicer. Things like mattresses. And forks. Anyway one of the things we are doing is auctioning our OWN goods and services... You can find my auction by clicking here:
It was supposed to be two auctions----the crit, and then a separate auction for the signed first edition of gods in ALabama and an audio book, but, oh well, oops. With all the stuff being donated and one kindly soul collecting donations and keeping a running list, and another kindly soul setting up every auction, there was a bit of confusion at Kindly Soul Central and first my auctions did not go up at all, and then when they did, they somehow got combined into one thing. OOPS! So, let;s roll with it as is! If you win and you don't write, you can have the audio version INSTEAD of the crit, in CD or tape, your pick. Or heck, one of each if that's what you need to be happy. I'm a pretty good editor, if you are a writer. And, if I so so myself, I have an especially fine eye for beginnings---finding the image or compelling moment that needs to be the opener, the thing that will make an editor or agent want to read on...I'm JUST SAYING.
You can also find a MULTITUDE of other auctions in this catagory by searching for "MM's Fire Fund" There's a long list of cool things up for auction like signed books, t-shirts, audio books, having characters named after you in a forthcoming book, lit crits from a multitude of very fine writers (like Jennifer Crusie and Haywood Smith and many more) NYC editors (like Beth de Guzman/Warner and Chris Keesman/Dorchester and more) and by legit literary agents with nice agencies (like The Knight Agency and Jane Rosentron Agency and more). SO.
Please help. Because this just sucks.
I had a grand time, a GRAND time at our version of BlogHer. I realized, however, that I am weird.
Yeah, I know. Alert the media.
Let me rephrase. I mean, talking through a couple of things with Mir and Kira, I learned that I am weird in a way I did not before know I was weird. I learned I am hyperactively modest when it comes to people I fringe-know. See, there are three kinds of people in the world. 1) My family and close friends. 2) My Acquaintances. And 3) Total Strangers. I don't mind going to the beach with my family and close friends and several million total strangers. BUT. I would absolutely HATE to go with acquaintances. Especially male ones. Male acquaintances like, say, the greeter I see every Sunday at church or the men Scott works with, are, to me, heads. They sit smiling and making tiny chat atop suits or sometimes polo shirts and slacks, and they don't really have bodies. They are just....kindly heads. With Manners. And Smiles. And maybe feet, you know, decently in shoes, sticking out of the bottom of their completely empty inflated suits of non-body-holding clothing.
AND I LIKE IT THAT WAY. I don't want them to have bodies, actually. They are perfectly delightful as heads, and I never want to see any more of them than that. Not because I am worried that their bodies are unattractive or too attractive....I have no idea. Because they HAVE no bodies to me right now, and I like that. It adds a certain level of decorum to our transactions.
I discovered this little weirdness this weekend; Scott's company picnic was at a water park, and instead of taking Kira and Mir with me, I just bowed out and did not attend. They kept saying OH BUT WE CAN GO IT IS FINE WE DO NOT MIND IF YOU NEED TO GO and I resisted and resisted until my reasons had to be examined. When I tried to REALLY CONSIDER GOING, I had a sudden, horrifying vision of near-but-not-quite-strangers engaging in Synchronized Speedo Prancing. I was spooked. EVEN THOUGH Scott assured me that NO such event would EVER take place, and that IF some dreadful someone suggested it, he would have mercifully drowned the perpetrator of the idea beneath the cyclone slide before it could be realized, my own hyperactive modesty gland secreted such panicked oozings that I ended up needing therapy.
Retail therapy. Mir and Kira took me The Avenue at East Cobb and I got a DARLING short skirt with big splashy flowers and a little V-neck knit top. I realized I had the PERFECT sandals for the outfit, and only then did my heart stop galloping around in my chest like a goaded crack-pony. AH ANN TAYLOR! YOUR LOFT CAN SOOTHE THE SAVAGEST AMONG US!
After the shopping, I was able to rationally discuss my newly unearthed phobia with Mir and Kira. I realized it wasn't just the idea of a swimwear work social that makes me hyperventilate. I could never, for example, attend a Church Social that took place at a pool. If it was just my SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS, you know, the people I know beyond HELLO HOW ARE YOU OH LOVELY GREAT SEE YOU NEXT WEEK, I would be fine. FINE. In fact my Sunday School has a pool social planned this month and of course I am going. But a CHURCH WIDE swimsuit affair? I WOULD DIE. There's a nice little usher who greets me most Sundays, and if I ever see my church-greeter's nipples, I feel certain I will burst into flame and burn down to a tiny embarrassed cinder. BECAUSE HE SHOULD NOT HAVE ANY. If he MUST have a body at all, it should be smooth and hairless and featureless. Just like KEN.
Yeah. I know. Weird. I DO need therapy.
I better go get another outfit.
When Martha O'Connor's debut novel,The Bitch Posse, launched, I was on tour and crazy, and while I blogged her, I never sent her 3 Questions. DREADFUL! OVERSITE! Because she's interesting. And because this was a book that got a lot of pre-pub buzz, so much so that I read it in ARC form (sent in by Alert Reader David). It was hard-edged and sad and lovely, and the level of craft blew me away in that she sustains 6 separate voices and it WORKS. So I tracked her down and made her do them NOW, figuring, better late than never...
JJ: Well. Martha! At last we have 3 questions... I've written a novel with a somewhat hard-edged protagonist who engages in, shall we say, "questionable behavior," what with all the beating heads in with liquor bottles and the sex with every boy in her high school sophomore class. And then here you come with three even HARDER edged girls who are big druggy-cutters who perpetrate some felonies of their own. When I was on the road, talking about gods in Alabama, I found myself feeling very defensive, trying to make it PERFECTLY clear that I was not Arlene and Arlene was not me. I can only imagine it must have been even more difficult for you. How did you handle it?
MO'C: At times I have sensed that people (reporters mainly) have really, REALLY wanted me to say that the book is based on actual events. I suppose it makes a better story~Writer Excorsises Own Demons Via Edgy Novel. But personally I feel my deep dark secrets are really no one's business, and besides, I really really REALLY want it to be about the book, not me.
For awhile when I was discussing this novel with my family, they felt
the need to point out inconsistencies between the book in my life, as
if to prove to me it was fiction. (!) My dad said, "But THAT'S not
why you were kicked out of the National Honor Society! It was because you..." and then he proceeded to explain the REAL reason I was kicked out of the Honor Society. Of which I was already well aware. Et cetera.
One thing I will promise: I do not have a deep, dark crime in my past that has haunted me for fifteen years!
JJ: I WANT MORE BOOKS BY YOU. What are you working on now?
MO'C: I am so supersitious about talking about unfinished work! It's like dancing in the kitchen when you have a souffle in the oven. But I am working on a novel. The novel I am working on is dark. That's all I'm sayin'!
JJ: I think your cover is fantastic...tell me how you ended up with it.
MO'C: St. Martin's involved me and my agent in cover art and wanting to know what we thought, if it was OK, etc. Several concepts floated by us and then they hired Rodrigo Corrall's freelance firm for this one. I think they did a great job. To me it looks like Amy whispering into Rennie's ear. The only problem is that people who've never met me want to know whether it is me on the cover. I have to tell them NO.
I wasn't sure about the checkerboard pattern on the spine at first and fought it a bit but now I see it in person and I think it is absolutely brilliant. It really stands out.
I'm happy with this cover and you're not the first person to compliment it.
Thank you so much for hosting me, Joshilyn!
Mir is here for the nonce -- we are doing our own private version of BlogHer with Kira who is joining us on Friday. We've spent the day doing my second favorite kind of shopping, i.e. "fingering things you can't afford to buy and googling at things you can't even afford to finger." *grin* We went to a lot of little weirdo gallery-ish antique-y shops in Midtown and then Virginia Highlands, .
Meanwhile, in case you hadn't picked up on it, we're both a little ... odd. There was this ABC show called Relativity that was on in mid-nineties; Only three people watched, so they cancelled it. We discovered, much to our delight, that we were two of the watchers. (Here's the third guy....)
We also discovered, much to our chagrin, that we both secretly (well it WAS secretly) think that Stephen Collins is sexy. Okay, well, no. Mir said cute, or maybe attractive. I upped the anti to sexy. BUT HE IS. In a strange way. As I said to Mir, he's sexy the way Ward Cleaver would have been sexy, if Ward Cleaver had been sexy at all.
Here's a little known Stephen "Smokin' Daddy-O" Collins fact: He also writes thrillers...
MEANWHILE, in absolutely unrelated news, I have this old ROBOT toy. He is about three feet tall and SO old. I got him when I was three, because my seven year old brother got one from Santa, and I wanted one too...*sigh* Anyway, I always loved that Robot. I named him "Robot" and he was my friend. Sam recently found him in my mom's attic and brought him home, but he pretty much broke the horns off of him and then forgot him. Maisy, however, LOOOOOOOVES Robot. She thinks Robot is the bomb. Sadly, she impugns Robot's personal dignity, AND she may be giving him a gender identity crisis...this is what I found in the playroom this morning:
My valiant man-child marched off to third grade today, armed only with a Batman lunch box and a extra scoop of chutzpah. Lord, Lord. They better be nice to him.
And Maisy, this long tall creature I STILL call "The Baby" is about to start preschool. Who let this happen?
Maisy has climbed up in my lap while I am trying to type this, and I'm thinking about how I used to type one handed with her tiny limp rag of a sleeping body nestled in the crook of my arm. Now having her in my lap....it's like trying to type while holding a box of weasels. With no lid. And the weasels are liquored up.
She LOVES to climb up into my office chair with me and mountain-climb my body while I work at the computer, marching over and around me. Then she'll wedge herself into the crevasse between my back and the chair's back, and dig her little fisties deep into my hair.
MAMA! She'll trumpet in her relentless, duck-quacky voice, I AM GOING TO MAKE YOUR HAIR VERY STYLISH NOW!
And then she'll yank big hunks out because, apparently, patchy bald spots are all the rage for pre-school hair this year. Yoik.
And by the WAY? When did I become MAMA? I was always MOMMY to Sam, and now of course he is much too cool and groovy to call anyone MOMMY. I am MOM. But Maisy named me Mama herself and I secretly kinda like it, even though it makes me feel a little bit like I should dip snuff and shuck corn. She says it in this weird may, like maa maa -- Both a's sounding like the a in CAN and a little pause in between the syllables. The only other word she says like that is "baby," so that it comes out as baa baa. THIS IS MY BAA BAA, MAA MAA. It is inexplicably dear to me.
But I look at Sam, so mighty and independent and already so fundamentally gone from me. Already so much his own person. And I am Mah-ohm to him now so often as I CRUELLY ENJOY thwarting his very good ideas, like, say jumping off the roof into the azalea bushes ("I would hold an umbrella, MAH-OHM. Like a PARACHUTE, Mah-ohm. And Mah-ohm, the bushes would CATCH ME.")
SO this is a short entry. In part because it's taking me forever to type because my hair is being pulled out and this little face keeps coming between me and the screen, blowing goldfish-cracker-breath up my nose and yacketing about "Busserfly catching." And in other part because I am going to stop typing and take my daughter out to mutilate harmless bugs now. I have to. In a couple of years ---years that that will pass in what seems like a span of days ---- she'll be too busy and important to want me to.
To answer the foreign rights questiosn that have popped up in comments:
YES gods in Alabama is being translated into Thai! I And Spanish and French and Swedish--I just got a note from the Swedish Transslator, asking what a GULCH PARTY is. Hehe.
YES|, All these editions WILL have their own covers, and I can not WAIT to see them. I'll post them here as they begin to exist. The mills of publishing grind slowly...
The UK edition uses the same cover as the American one. Hodder (my publishing house) tried a few things, but ended up getting permission from Warner to use Anne Twomey's cover, which on the one hand was disappointing because I thought it would be rather fun to have another cover, BUT on the other hand...I can't blame them. Anne Twomey is a freakin' genius. The colors, and the way she captures the feel/themes of the book without being too literal...When I first saw it I pretty much wept and began to build a temple for her in my backyard. She did the cover for Between Georgia, too, I am ECSTATIC to tell you, and I should be able to show that to you VERY soon. It's...awesome. She deserves Godiva chocolates and a ticker tape parade and a pony.
*ten minutes later* WOW, just as I typed the word pony, the doorbell rang. It was a package---my AUTHOR COPIES of the UK edition! HUZZAH! I will have to think of a contest to win a signed one of these soon...
*30 minutes later* OH WOW but this blog entry is diffused, As i was typing about the package, an e-mail came for me. It is going into my PEOPLE TO INVESTIGATE SHOULD I TURN UP DEAD file. Some guy wants me to use my PRODIGIOUS influence in L.A. to help him get a pilot made for his TV show idea that he based on this dream he had, but he can't tell me about the dream OR the TV show because, although he is sure I am a good person, I would probably steal it. I wouldn't be able to help myself. The idea is JUST that good. If I help him, later he might let me write the pilot for him. SO! Could I make some phone calls on his behalf? THANKS!
So I did...
I called my friend Jill and told her of my new TV project, and how I have to this week in my copious spare time get a pilot made for a show idea that I don't know what it is because I would steal it. Jill is going to call her very good friend Bruce Willis, just as soon as she meets and befriends him, and we decided to cast NAKED TAYE DIGGS in every part, because, hey, I would watch that show. So would you. Admit it. (Can you tell I just re-watched Chicago?)
The best part of the conversation:
Me -- Oh well, you know, they LOVE me in L.A., if "they" refers to "the restroom attendent at the 4 Seasons that I accidentally tipped 20 bucks because I was hooty." So. I prolly COULD get the pilot made for him. IF I FELT LIKE IT.
Jill -- OH! OH! OH! YOU ROCK STAR!! YOU CAN CURE POVERTY AND HUNGER AND CAUSE SWIRLED PEAS!!!
That put me on the floor. ..... CAUSE SWIRLED PEAS!!! Funny every time. But it led to this conversation:
Me -- *laugh choke laugh weep choke* OMG Except...*hitching gulps* Okay. OMG. Ok. Except... what is swirled peas?
Jill -- You know, swirled peas.
Me -- No. I don't know.
Jill -- Yes, you do. You know. Swirled peas?
Me--- Um, no.
Jill is from Colorado. They do weird stuff to produce there, apparently. What are you going to do?
We interrupt my usual incessant rambling about newts and the fat content of wheat-free oat bran juice sweetened safflower oil soaked organic cookie-ish product, (and momentarily suspend the titular HOBBIT YACKET) so I can shake my international groove-thang. gods launches in the UK/Australia in the middle of this month, and there's fun stuff going on across the pond. Not to mention---this is gods' first non American release. Allow me to say, Huzzah! YAY GODS! And also, YAY THE BRITISH! Because THEY ARE BEING NICE TO MY BOOK!
Glamour Magazine (theirs) has picked gods as its Must Read for August. Here's a nice chunklet of the SPIFFY review:
"Now there's a new southern talent, and Jackson's debut is a startling page turner... This is a beautifully crafted, sassy novel, where nothing is quite as it seems, and the way the final pieces of the jigsaw slot together in the closing pages should surprise even the most jaded of readers."
ALSO? Ottakar's (one of Britain's leading book chains) has picked gods as its Book of the Month as well. And I want to kiss them on the mouth for it, quite frankly. Here's hoping the personification of Ottaker's would look like Taye Diggs with a British accent. I'm just saying.
REALLY LASTLY, the rights to gods sold in THAILAND last week! So gods will be out there in January, 2007! Lift a bowl of spicy Tom Ka Gai with me.
MEANWHILE, since we are all closing our eyes and thinking of England ANYWAY, I forgot to tell you this thing that happened on vacation....my folks were watching those special forces type guys track down one of the bombers in Rome (CNN or FOX, not sure which....) I was in and out of the room, kid-wrangling and making myself a sandwich. So I was distracted, but I was listening, you know, and they had these two (American) journalists talking about what we were seeing as the Special Ops guys were calmly and methodically strapping on various equipment, just completely focused and ready to go RISK THEIR LIVES to bring this guy in alive, BUT on one trip through the room, I thought I heard one of the commentators say, "Yes, well, the British are like hobbits..."
I stopped, nonplused, and said, "Did he just say...The British are like HOBBITS?!!???"
My father was looking at the screen with a faintly puzzled expression. "Surely not," he said. Dad is a little hard of hearing so we always have the captions on. We waited a moment and sure enough, across the screen, we see the words, "Yes, well, the British are like Hobbits..."
We collectively boggled. The PM was already calling the White House to sever diplomatic relations WHEN, astoundingly, THE GUY KEPT TALKING. "Yes, the British, they like to stay home, comfortable in the Shire, but when true evil approaches, they take their feet down off their hobbit cushions and and rally and BLAH BLAH BLAH."
So. On behalf of my nation, I wish to say:
DEAR THE BRITISH,
You are not at all like Hobbits. No one who is not simultaneously on a) crack and b)24 hour news television would ever think so. Please allow me to apologize on behalf of my nation, and also on behalf of whatever booby-headed mouth pooter they let talk on TV that day.
If I ever decide to move to Wales forever, this will certainly have been a factor.
PS Allow me to pre-emptively and authoritatively say, we do NOT feel the French are anything like Wood Elves.
Meet Karin Gillespie, fellow Southern writer, funny lady, and known smarty-pants, who is also yet another in the Pantheon of Authors Whose Names Are Not Prounounced the Way They Look. Karin, in this case, is pronounced like "Anistasia." KIDDING! Ha ha! Say the word "Car" and then add an "in." Now you got it. Before coming a novelist, Karin was a special education teacher at an inner-city school and an editor of a regional parenting magazine. She’s also a bi-monthly columnist for the Augusta Chronicle. Her first novel, Bet Your Bottom Dollar, is in the process of being optioned by James Woods for film. (WOO!) Her second Novel in the Bottom Dollar Girls series isA Dollar Short, and it's out this month. Booklist says it's a "…Raucous southern spoof. Never a dull moment… this fast-paced screamer of a romance begs a giggle, if not a guffaw."
Now I will hush mah mouth and let Karin talk....
JJ: Did you always plan for the Bottom Dollar Girls to be a series? If not, how did it grow into in, and if so, did you structure the first book differently, knowing another would follow.
KG: This is the conversation I had with my agent when I got “the call.”
Agent: Good news! Simon and Schuster wants to buy your novel.
Me: Shriek! Shriek!
Agent; They think it should be a series. Do you have an idea for a second book?
Me: (Lying through my teeth) Of course, I have an idea for another book! I have ideas for gazillions of books.
So, no, I didn’t have a clue. But at that point I was willing to write a pop-up versions of the book if they wanted it. However I’ve found that writing a series is easier because you don’t have to re-create an entire universe with every book. I just wrote a book out of series and it was like cutting the grass with pinking shears when I'd gotten used to a riding lawn mower.
JJ: I read an interesting interview with you once where you talked about the difference between real life and (your) books, and how you want your characters to be larger than life----Can you talk a little but more about this here?
KG: I think every novelist has the task of making their characters seem realistic without being too realistic, i.e. boring. My Bottom Dollar Girls novels are humorous so characters in funny novels always tend to be a bit more colorful than say, the characters in a literary novel.
But yes, I think all characters in novels have to be somewhat large than life in order to be entertaining. I could write a book about my neighbor whose biggest passion in life is to rid his grass of weeds but I don’t think too many people would want to read it.
JJ: A lot of writers read this blog. You run a blog called Diary of a Hype Hag that looks at innovative ways to get the word out about your book. In fact, the GCC is your brainchild, and I think all of the authors involved in it have gotten a lot of of it. Give us an idea of how involved you think a writer needs to be in the promotion of their books?
KG: Authors have to be utterly involved because nobody cares about their book as much as they do. Sometimes I feel like I’m filling a swimming pool with an eye-dropper. Am I really making a difference? But doing promotion for your book is like writing a novel, if you do a little every day, suddenly you’ve made a discernible difference in your sales.
Promotion also has to be smart. I hear about authors wasting away in bookstores for hours, selling one book. That’s a poor use of their time. Learn what works and concentrate your efforts. There’s a lot of trial and error associated with the process. I, of course, believe in girl power to promote books that’s why I started the GCC.I also travel with three other Southern authors called the Dixie Divas. We’ve been touring together now for almost a year and it’s been a hoot. (I call us Thelma and Louise squared.)
We wear costumes and just turn the typical book-signing on its head. Nowadays, I get an invitation almost every day for the DDs to appear one place or the other. It’s just been the best way to promote books, and if an event is a dud we can commiserate with each other.
I have to say, Mental Illness and I have always had a good relationship. It's like an arranged marriage, where maybe you didn't pick the guy, but you are bound and determined to make the best of it, and the guy is too.
My brain and Mental Illness share a skull, and they each keep to their own side and try not to bother each other in significant ways. OH sure, Mental Illness is not a GREAT roommate...I mean, there was that year I didn't leave the house or answer phone calls or e-mails, ha ha ha! That was a fun year! And I am a veteran insomniac---I do not sleep well, period. On vacation I still popped up awake and on full-worry-alert at 6 am, every morning. Mental Illness is a wonderful alarm clock. And I am overly suspicious. And Hypersensitive. And there is all the weird stuff with food... (I just ate SPELT! ON PURPOSE!! And I do not even know what spelt IS!!!) And I firmly believe it is Mental Illness who gave me my fervent belief that if I could wear size six pants, I would be a more valuable as a human being, coupled with a fingers-in-ears-la-la-la refusal to understand that tall, busty girls like me can't fit their Hip Bones and Upper Curved Parts into a size six, much less if they want to bring along any internal organs.
Brain knows that when I am fit and toned, I am an 8, pretty much your regulation medium. Mental Illness does not want to hear it. Brain values OTHER people for their minds or senses of humor or their kindness, and Mental Illness thinks those are fine standards, BUT points out that for me personally, value is solely determined by the not-being-a-size-six. Meanwhile Brain has a complete intellectual understanding that if I had MONUMENTAL plastic surgeries and shaved my hipbones down and removed my shoulders and my mighty rack, and I struggled my scarred and whittled body INTO a size six, Mental Illness would then suddenly realize that what REALLY makes a person valuable is being a size two. Brain knows this like it knows the multiplication tables, but Mental Illness gets half the house, and it knows what it knows too.
Oh sure, I have to load up on Ativan to sit in a dentist's chair unless I want Mental Illness to take over and hyperventilate and projectile vomit and send me leaping across the room to bang my head into a wall 'til I pass out, but that's a predictable event. Mental Illness could have picked, say, red sports cars, or TREES, or SUNLIGHT, so that every drive to Kroger was fraught with unspeakable horror. I know when my dentist's appointments are, and I pre-medicate Mental Illness, and all is well. Dentist's chairs are only ever in Dentist's offices. You don't find them lurking in parks, waiting to spring out at you and grab you with long tentacle straps and grow arms and come at your mouth The Poinking Tool while a Fanged, Flaming Dentist apparates before you and screeches TIME FOR YOUR CLEANING.
And I have to say, MY Mental Illness has it's good points. Sometimes I am a completely unreasonable human being, and later, I can blame Mental Illness, who is ALWAYS ready to step up and take responsibility for the times when I act, well, mentally ill. And Mental Illness keeps the writing parts of Brain well-lubricated with horrific visions that Brain uses as plot twists. I appreciate that. AND Mental Illness has never been so feisty and unreasonable that Brain couldn't RECOGNIZE whatever was going on as some project or another of Mental Illness'. My Mental Illness is OVERT and PALPABLE, and it doesn't pretend it isn't there and ask me to wear tinfoil hat and live in a dumpster, as other people's Mental Illnesses have required. I try to always buy people whose brains have genuinely awful skull-mates like that sandwiches, because there but by the grace of God go I, there but by the grace of God go we all...
So you can imagine my consternation when the Panic Attacks started. The first one happened during a medical emergency with my daughter, so, okay, look, that's forgivable. OF COURSE Mental Illness goes on high alert when your child is threatened. I thought it was a heart attack, actually, but was too busy helping Maisy to die of it, and later I did some reading and realized my symptoms were more in keeping with a panic attack than a HEART one. SO! Okay. Maisy is in mortal peril, a panic attack seemed like a reasonable response, so I shrugged it off. BUT THEN! I had another. While I was sitting quietly working at my computer after a CHARMING lunch with friends and feeling, I THOUGHT, pretty relaxed and happy. I walked around the house with my heart threatening to burst in my chest, trying to remember anything I'd ever read about Yoga and becoming one with Zen and stress relieving mantras. In a few minutes it subsided. I was TICKED. THIS was not part of the deal. Mental Illness was not only taking Brain's Milk out the fridge, but drinking it directly from the carton and then peeing in it. NOT. ACCEPTABLE.
Then a week or so later, just as I am supposed to be leaving on vacation---ANOTHER ONE. I stomped around the house while my chest squeezed itself shut, but my yoga breathing sounded suspiciously like the blowing of an enraged bull, and I was chanting I AM RELAXED AND HAPPY AND CALM DAMMIT, AND I WILL KILL ANYONE WHO SAYS DIFFERENT. Then I chanted some A Very Bad Words Indeed about Mental Illness.
I realized it was time to take Mental Illness to the doctor and get it tinkered with or even REMOVED because it was SERIOUSLY breaking the covenant.
Yeah. Well. Hrm.
Turns out it was not a heart attack. Heart is fine, thanks.
Turns out it was not a panic attack. Mental Illness remains at acceptable levels.
It is this weird problem you can get where your esophagus clenches, and it MIMICS a heart attack. It's pretty much irritating and painful, but at the level I have it, untreatable and mostly harmless....
I am thinking I might need to send Mental Illness some flowers or something. Yish.
I AM tofu---this from an earlier entry: "If you set me next to anything for even a little time, I pick up its flavors. This means I have to choose my friends a little bit....carefully. It's not good to set an open tofu package near the cat box, metaphorically speaking. So that's why I don't spend a lot of time with, say, crack smoking, venereal disease addled violent felons. I mean, there are some things you KNOW you do not want to pick up."
So I BLEW the 20 days of virtue---remember the 20 days of virtue??? -- and I blame my friend Julie. The Twenty Days of Virtue was supposed to get the 4 pounds I gained on tour OFF MY BUTT, remember? But it turned into two days of virtue followed by a month long carnival of cheesy popcorn and Darkside M&M snarfing. NOT GOOD. But see, this self-same Julie, who is one of my closest friends, is breast feeding. Which means she can eat anything that MOVES and she is still starving after that so she eats all the inanimate objects and then has PIE and yet she NEVER GAINS A POUND. Breast feeding is MAGIC like that.
Julie is usually a GOOD influence on me because she's a little bit crunchy, you know? She's down with the macrobiotic granola, and so when I hang out with her we usually spend our time nibbling sunflower seeds and bench pressing our children. It's GREAT. BUT in recent weeks, since the baby, she invites me over and we pretty much hang out basking in HER placid nursing hormones and I obligingly help her eat up vats of buttered meat. Even with my crazed exorcise schedule, I went up another pound and change. I became unamused and wailed and whined to my friend Matt.
Me: Since all the fat is already in my buttocks, maybe I could squeeze some more of it down there and split it off into a whole separate other person. Lord knows there's enough butt back there already to make Dr. Ruth.
Matt: Ah, good plan. Would that be Meiosis or Mitosis?
Me: I don't know, but the butt-person could be handy to have around. You know, for cleaning out the litter box.
Matt: I think that form of reproduction is actually called "Rumptual Budding."
BUT A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO! AT LAST! HURRAY!! Julie became unhappy with her new EAT IT ALL AND THEN EAT MORE plan. She's very sporty and outdoorsy and athletic, and she says its really bothering her that she is storing an extra five pounds. (I suspect she means she is storing five pounds in a box under her bed because I certainly don't see them on her body. Or maybe she means she is storing them on MY butt. I certainly see proof of THAT!) Her response has been to go on this program called BODY BY GOD where you eat NATURAL foods and shun anything MAN-TAMPERED, no preservatives or hormones or white flour and sugar, and you use SEA SALT and get serious with the nuts and roots and berries and wild-caught ocean fish etc. etc. And I, with my tofu-ish and characteristic lack of gorm, am becoming a complete whackjob Whole Foods loon right along with her. HUZZAH!
Actually I can't follow her program exactly because it's anti-dairy which I think is crap. I think dairy is wholesome and kindly. Milk---assuming you spring for the second mortgage so you can afford the hormone-free organic --- is NOT a FOOD BY MAN. It's by God, dernit. Or at least, it's by COW. Close enough. But I have gone along with the rest of it, and am living on almond butter and organic veggies and free range chicken raised without hormones and this frozen LOAF thing that is best described as GLUTEN FREE SOY UNWHEAT BERRY SPELT BREAD SUBSTITUTE WITH FLAX RENDERINGS. That last one tastes like SOUR DEATH, but man, do I feel VIRTUOUS! I practically glow with a white light as I choke it down. And my pants are getting looser, so shut up and pass me another slice.
I was telling Matt about the breadlike substance and he said I should skip this intermediate step and go straight to burying myself in the soil and getting all my nutrients through photosynthesis. Hehe. He gets off some pretty dern good lines, that Matt.
BUT TOO BAD, MATT! I stick my fingers in my ears and ignore you. You big carnivore. My course is set and you can't argue with looser pants. Nothing encourages me like a smaller butt. I fear for my children. I am starting to wonder why I would feed something to my precious kids that I won't eat myself because I KNOW it has the same nutritional value as a clump of dog hair dipped in festering lard. I am now casting a jaundiced eye upon Maisy's beloved Snak-Paks and Sam's addiction to canned mandarin oranges. If I don't get hold of myself, they are going to end up just like those kids you see in California wearing hemp pants and rubber shoes and licking desperately at their rock hard yeast-and-sugar-free soy isolate protein muffins as they wait by the side of the road for their mom to come take them home to the co-op in the electric car.
So far all I have done is trade the store brand mac-n-cheese for Annie's Organic White Cheddar Whole Wheat kind, but hey, THEY ATE IT UP LIKE MOTHER'S BISCUITS. And every journey---even the internal journey from Cheeto-junkie to CrunchHead---begins with a single step.
A true story about Cover to Cover, the GPR/NPR show I was on last night: I remember several years ago, say, four or five, I went to hear the host speak at a meeting of the Georgia Writer's Association. He was very charming and funny (and I had long liked the program), and I sat in the audience with a couple hundred or so other striving, aspiring, wedded-to-this-crazed-idea-of-a-career-as-a-novelist writers, and we were all glowing and jostling and bouncing slightly in our seats because we all knew we would be next, our books would be bought and published and set the world on fire and etc. He was talking about all the writers he had met, and what made a good guest, and I turned to my friend Jill and whispered, "I'm going to be on his show one day." And she said, "I know you are, Bunny Rabbit." I felt patronized and said, "No, but really. I am. I mean it. Betcha. I WILL BE ON THAT SHOW." And she said, "Bunny Rabbit. I know." And I realized she meant it.
AND...last night I WAS on the show! (If you missed it, they will rebroadcast next week and then still later after that you will be able to listen to the tape over the web--I'll shoot you some linky love when it gets closer) The moral is, obviously, that Jill is nice. And the other moral is, nothing builds confidence like a friend who will call you Bunny Rabbit with deadly earnesty. And the last moral is, if you write good books and never say die and refuse to hear the word NO and keep writing, you will eventually get to be on the radio with St.John Flynn. <---This is probably the moral with the most useful application, but I like the Bunny Rabbit moral best.
EXTRA BONUS MORAL EXTRAPOLATED FROM BUNNY RABBIT MORAL WITH NO RELATIONSHIP TO THE ANECDOTE: I have other friends who call me Beautiful Tulip. I highly recommend this as well. Everyone should be called a beautiful tulip several times a day because it makes you cheerful and cheerful people are generally kinder to others and THE WORLD COULD USE THAT. I am just saying.
And now, here is a poor and blurry image of FIG THE NEWT, because he is now big enough to show up, but not big enough to show up CLEARLY. Spotty and Daisy Flower are still to small to even show up as a blurry log, sorry. Also, there is light behind him, so you can see all his internal organs churning and pulsing away in there, doing their little biological jobs. Yick:
And now, here is a picture of Mr. Kingsley:
Mr. Kingsley is Scott's new computer that he BUILT HIMSELF out of tape and spittle and expensive electronic components while I was in the mountains not having any e-mail service and eating too much. Methinks Mr. Kingsley is a LEETLE CREEPY because Scott put a glass wall in one of his sides so you can see all HIS internal organs churning and pulsing away in there, doing their little technological jobs. Double Yick. Scott named him Mr. Kingsley after Ben Kingsley, because he felt (and quite rightly) that I would object to a computer named SEXY BEAST.
Lastly, and apropos of exactly nothing---people are sending me e-mails asking me writing/publishing/and-even-blogging questions, and more questions of this nature are coming up like that on my MW list. I know very little but of course have loud, ratty opinions anyway. And people are sending me e-mails asking me for reading recs. Want me to answer HERE or continue answering each e-mail as it comes, all SECRETLY? Y'alls calls.