March 31, 2006

3 Questions with Tanya Lee Stone (and then I get on a Soapbox)

School Libray Journal STARRED its review of Tanya Lee Stone's new YA book, A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl and with good reason. It's a book that's being touted as the new FOREVER, and indeed, Judy Blume's watershed book on teen sexuality is a touchstone inside Stone's book. I sat down with Tanya to talk about her book, and then right after, I got up again and leapt onto a soapbox because she said, very casually, a remark I disagree with down to my marrows. The results of the sitting and the leaping are below.

JJ: Your book has been favorably compared to Judy Blume's Forever (which was passed to me under cover of darkness in the 8th grade, read practically to tatters). Did you have a book like that, that told a story while answering questions about sexuality you didn't even know you had?

TLS: Yes, and it was the same book--Forever! We had a special loose board at sleepover camp where we would hide the bunk's copy so everyone could get a turn to read it if they wanted to.

badboycov.jpeg


JJ: You deal with some pretty mature themes, but this is a book where actions have consequences. How young is too young for this book...in other words, how high do you think a person needs to be to ride this ride?

TLS: Actions do have consequences, but I'd like to point out that none of the characters are punished for being sexually aware human beings. No one gets pregnant, or sick, or dies. I wanted to explore female characters who were enjoying the fact that this new territory, which can be scary, is also exciting, and that that's okay. It's marked as 14 and up, and of course every reader is unique. Kids are amazingly good at picking books for themselves. If they're not ready for it, they put it back on the shelf. But if they see themselves in any of the characters and are grappling with any of the issues, they're probably ready for it and will want to read it.

JJ:A lot of writers read this blog---You've been on both sides of the desk, working as an editor before selling your first novel. Can you talk a little about the transition?

TLS: The transition happened when I moved away from a publishing hub and needed to rethink my career goals. I always wrote, and it didn't take long to come to the realization that I wanted to focus my energies there full-time, if possible. The transition wasn't hard as I had spent a lot of years editing children's books before I ever seriously attempted to write my first one. I was hooked fast. My editorial brain continued to brainstorm ideas and my writing brain got busy.

Thanks, Tanya.

I got a little fussy over one of the lines in this interview, and Tanya left a comment to clarify her position which I think needs to be put up for you to see BEFORE the part where I go off like a rocket...

TANYA: Thanks Joshilyn. I'd like to clarify something. I was referring to kids 14 and up deciding for themselves whether they are ready or not to read my book. It is marked 14 and up right on the book, is categorized as upper YA, and I would not recommend it for kids younger than 14. I would definitely not give it to a 6th or 7th grader simply because they are advanced readers as they are likely not ready for the content. It was in the context of the book being meant for high-school age readers that I was answering your question. Also, I do not believe that trusting a teen to make reading choices for themselves automatically cuts the parent out. Absolutely, parents should be there to offer opinions and talk with their kids. I was keeping my answers short for the interview, but in the interest of clarity thought I'd speak up as I don't think we're too far off from being on the same page.

Me again: See, I read
"It's marked as 14 and up, and of course every reader is unique."
as
"It's marked as 14 and up, BUT of course every reader is unique."

Those are two VERY different things. It was MY misunderstanding. I left the following rant up even though it seems Tanya and I are in agreement because I think it's an important topic to talk about...censorship v/s parenting, where one ends and the the other begins...

Not to be belligerent, but I do have to say, okay, well maybe SOME kids are good at self-censoring, and in MANY cases the fact that the average 6th grader reads on the 6th grade level will protect that kid from reading something that is for adults, but if you have a bright sort of academically enthusiastic kid who is reading well above grade level, you can't assume they have the maturity to choose appropriate books. I can't let "If they're not ready for it, they put it back on the shelf" be said on my blog without addressing it because I disagree SO strongly with the concept. Kids have NO thoughts about whether or not book is thematiaclly appropriate for them, and they may not be "grappling with the issues" so much as "wanting to know what the issues even ARE at an age where they don't stinkin' need to be worried about it or even know those issues exist."

I am speaking here more as an early reader here than a mother....and let me be REALLY clear: I am not talking about worrying that your never-even-been-kissed 14 year old might get her hands on a copy of FOREVER or Tanya's book and realize that boys are different down there. She already knows. She's probably reading A BAD BOY CAN BE GOOD FOR A GIRL right NOW in fact, while you are busy on the internets, and that's fine, she's not going read this book and get on IM with her friends and tell them they must now all become " pRon starz LOLZ!!!! one111oneone." A book is a MUCH safer place to explore her fetal sexuality than say, at a boy-girl slumber party, which is, PS the stupidest idea I ever heard of. If you find this book while vacuuming under her bed, you should probably walk away because she would DIE if she knew you knew that she knew that you knew etc etc. But if it was me, I would get my OWN dern copy, and then, without referencing the fact that I had CAUGHT HER READING A SEXY BOOK, I would be SUPER available and create opportunities to talk about some of the book's themes. Just sayin'.

I passed around FOREVER with my friends at an age where I had French-kissed a grand total of one boy and he had been so incredibly BAD at it that his drill-like tongue and plunged down my throat and hit my easy-to-trigger gag reflex, causing me to hurl. I was nowhere NEAR emotionally or even physically ready to DO any of the things in FOREVER, not just the physical things near the end, but not ready for "having a boyfriend." But I had a zillion questions, and the book was a MUCH safer place than the back of a smooth-talking 16 year old's car to explore my burgeoning sexual self. Thirteen or fourteen, incidentally, was about the same age my MOTHER and her friends passed around a read-to-shreds copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover. Which I am sure they read for the, um, literary themes, and not the heaving flanks that bounce and sweat all over the place and, to digress, what the heck is D. H. Lawrence's THING with the word FLANKS, I ask you? Everyone in D.H. Lawrence novels seems to possess flanks that are acrobatic to the point of being prehensile.

SO, I'm not saying this book is evil, wrest it from your daughter's grasping fingers. And to be even clearer, while this book contains sexual scenes, everythign I have read about this book assures me the scenes are NOT graphic, and while the book deals with mature themes, it isn't done in an exploitative or gratuitous manner. THis book deals with real issues that real kids face. And that's a GOOD thing. But--- I'm speaking here as a person who was reading on the college level while in elementary school. I am thinking of the time I cleverly decided it might be cool to read Alex Haley's ROOTS under my covers with a flashlight (because I knew my mother would MURDER me if she caught me with it, and rightfully so.) I was in NO WAY ready for the themes and images in that book, I was NOT grappling with slavery, rape, torture, the nature of evil and man's inhumanity to man as relevant issues in my life. I was NOT prepped for emotionally or mentally for this material, even though I had the vocabulary and the reading skills to injest it. And at 9 or 10, I should NOT have needed to be prepped for it. I had no business reading that book. Period. And IF my mother had known, she would never have said, "Well if she isn't ready, she will stop reading it." I read the damn thing cover to cover and came away from it with some of the ODDEST misapprehensions about sex and some intense nightmares... At the same age, I had the ability to READ Forever, and had I found a copy, I would have read it in a heartbeat, but I don't think it would have been AT ALL good for me at that age. I read FOREVER right when I needed to, but that was LUCK, not an internal SENSE for I was ready for. Kids think they are ready for anything and PS, immortal. They are neither.

Now, am I still in therapy over ROOTS? No. It was a book. No permanent harm was done. But you could say the same thing about a scraped knee, and yet, if your kid begins to stumble, do you grab them by the arm and steady them, or do you let them go ahead and scrape a small chunk of themself off because it will not cause PERMA-damage? Parents need to be reading what their kids are reading, ESPECIALLY If the kid's ABILITY strongly outweighs his/her maturity, and parents need to be available both to say "This book is a tough book---let's talk about it," or "Let's put this book back on the shelf for the next year or two, okay?"

And I say this not only as a reader, but as a writer who is not afraid to explore some, say, mature themes. I found out gods in Alabama had been misfiled and was being sold at a middle school bookfair on the kid's table, and some people were yelling censorship when parents kicked up a fuss. I am with the parents on this one. gods was sold at MANY bookfairs, but they were high school bookfairs, and in most cases, even in high school, the book was on the "for parents" table. I don't think gods is appropriate for middle school kids. It's rated an emphatic R, and if you wouldn't let your kid see a rated R movie, then they are not ready for my first book. Period. I say this as a mother, a reader, a writer AND as a person who would REALLY like to sell a lot of copies of gods when it comes out in paperback in June...I just don't want to sell them to your curious, bright-eyed, essentially innocent creature with more brain-smarts and reading ability than sense about what she's ready to process.

Once again. just to be clear---I think like a book like Tanya Lee Stone's is important. Every generation of girls has a book like this---and they NEED it. It's a milestone. I am grateful to Judy Blume, she answered a LOT of questions for me and my friends that we were not ready to answer via the hands-on type of research. *cough* But at the same time, I think it's important that parents not be afraid of the word censorship to the point that they stop being PARENTS and abdicate the job of making choices FOR their kids when their kids don't have the maturity to make the right ones themselves. In fact, with the possible exception of HOGG, I can't think of a book I would take away from my son or daughter and say "NEVER READ THIS IT WILL HURT YOUR BRAIN." But I can think of a lot I would gently peel from their fingers and say, "You know what? Next year." That's my job.

One day I will tell you a couple of the bizarre things I ended up believing because I read ROOTS too early, but right now my feet are hurting from standing on this soapbox for so long...

Posted by joshilyn at 8:17 AM | Comments (22)

March 30, 2006

HI! IT IS APRIL FIRST!

I planned that blog title to be a public service announcement for those of you who, like me, live with a 9 year old boy who owns a whoopie cushion. Be careful where you sit, I was going to say to you, and careful what you believe today.

April Fool's day may very well be my son's favorite holiday. Since there is no way to avoid getting hooked like a trout about 1,000 times on April the Oneth, I had pre-resigned myself to my fate, especially since his friend Nick gave him THE GREAT BIG PRACTICAL JOKE KIT for his birthday. THANKS, NICK!

I had PLANNED to be a good sport, but let me tell you, this morning when I deliberately lowered my bare foot in my son's plastic vomit so I could pretend to be grossed out, only to discover my son was still asleep and it was, instead, the cat's NON-plastic vomit.... yeah that's kinda set a TONE for today. Heh. The tone was "Horrified Shrieking punctuated by gagging." It only got better when my kid came down the stairs and I said, "Son, do you know what TODAY is?" And he thought for a second and said, "Yeah. Thuursday, March 30th." Oh. Right. SO, disregard the title of this entry. Me, I am sitting here dandling my foot in a bucket of bleach and DYING to change the subject....

SCOTT is out of town and the two things I long to tell you about I cannot tell you about because I need either the DIGITAL CAMERA which he took with him, or a file off my LAPTOP, which he took with him. SO. He comes home this afternoon...I will try to post again later when I have the needed objects in my possession.

OH -- listen, I ate the universe's most beautiful and delicious thing. They were these COOKIES I got off a blog I read...The only thing I did differently was, instead of using chocolate chunks, I took a big bar of Ghirardelli dark chocolate still in it's wrapper and whanged at it with a meat tenderizer until it was all in pieces and mixed THAT in. Seriously, GO FORTH AND BAKE THESE. If these cookies don;t move you to grateful tears, you may very well have no soul.

I truly enjoy the blog by the way. I found it via a link from the late great Chez Miscarriage, a blog I STILL link to in the hopes it will return. Ah well, make the cookies, and read this chick's blog a little. I'm not pimpin' a friend here---I've never spoken to her or even left a comment. I just enjoy her writing.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:58 AM | Comments (5)

March 28, 2006

B4B Winners (A Letter from Sarah Smiley)

Let's let Sarah talk--- I'll tell you a coupla things at the end:

Dear Bloggers:

My husband just came home from a morning flight and found me sitting at the computer like this: hunched over, a hand to my mouth, and laughing with dried-up tears on my face.

"What happened to you?" he asked.

I had just finished reading the seven finalists for B4B, and in a matter of thirty minutes had gone from laughing to crying to laughing again.

Are you people trying to kill me?

The submissions were fantastic, making my job that much more difficult. I read and re-read them several times over, convinced I'd never narrow it down to just three.

But Joshilyn told me the rules, and I'm not one to break the rules (ahem, stop laughing if you've already read GOING OVERBOARD), so here goes --

THIRD PLACE:
"The Military" by Excruciating Minutiae

An exquisite look at a sister's farewell to her soldier brother. I love how this author puts us right into the action. A true snippet of life. Brilliant. I was hooked from the very first paragraph. The vision of the author's mom standing on the driveway, watching the car drive away, made me tear up. And then, when the sister says her "goodbye" in the parking lot, the water droplets finally spilled over my lids and onto my cheeks.

The author's use of dialogue makes this piece stand out. Her pacing and tempo truly set the mood and make the reader feel a part of the scene.

So much is written about husbands and wives and mothers and fathers saying goodbye to their service-member loved ones. I was intrigued by the fresh angle to those painful farewells.

SECOND PLACE
"Field Marshall Mom" by Cynical Optimism


Oh, my boys will not like that I've read this little gem. Great advice for "single moms" who juggle all the balls while their husbands are deployed. The satire on "Field Marshall" as Mom had me giggling several times. Great use of humor without being too cynical. Ah, cynical optimism!

Sometimes it is hard to "complain" with humor without making the reader think, "Oh get over it!" Field Marshall Mom walks that delicate balance of poking fun at ourselves without irritating others.

I especially love Rule #2 and its consequence. I can just see my boys getting down to their Superman skivvies before realizing I wasn't joking. But then, on second thought, they might actually like that. Oh well.

FIRST PLACE
"Grandpa Gilles" by Wilson World

OK, this piece took me from tears to chills. I honestly had goosebumps at the end. As a columnist myself, I appreciate the author's full-circle ending and the powerful message it makes.

Beyond the beauty of this prose, however, is the very important message about war and life and death. Too often we overlook the risks our loved ones make when they commit themselves to the armed services. Thank you for the reminder.

"Grandpa Gilles" has beauty all throughout, but the power punch is the ending, with its reflections on "luck." Oh, and the picture is obviously a nice added touch. Good for you, Wilson World, for keeping all your loved one's sacrifices alive.

So there you have it, my tortuous selection. And I only say tortuous because all of them were good.

For those of you who did not win, hopefully you will check out my book Going Overboard or my column (www.sarahsmiley.com) anyway. Overboard is not just for military wives. Far from it. In fact, I wrote it for civilians because my soapbox is this: your husband doesn't have to be physically deployed to go through the things I did in my memoir. There are plenty of men who are mentally checked out of their marriages. And that's what Overboard is about -- surviving marriage.

Happy writings!
Sarah Smiley,

THANKS SARA!
Congrats to all of you entered and saved B4B----this was an amazining month. Wilson World will get a new Perma Link in the B4B Winner's section of my links page (which won't be done until Scott gets back in town....look for it over the weekend.) Also a signed copy of Sarah's book:

smileycover.jpeg

Let me just say this --- I think the LINKS section should be retroactive as far as FtKudzu is concerned, but maybe not extend back into Zero Boss territory as his archives are down. SO, If you won first place in B4B HERE and want to be included on the links, then shoot me an e-mail. This qualifies you also to be a B4B special guest blogger... BUT you have to retire from B4B and let some other glory hound soak up the rays of the massive fame and immense wealth that invariably follow a B4B win.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:35 AM | Comments (7)

March 27, 2006

A Golden Opportunity for You to Envy My Glamorous Life

I had a bad day yesterday. I bruised my hip and broke a glass, and then I missed my church's luncheon and ministry fair to go to a booksigning. I put on a cute skirt and fixed my hair, but when I showed up, I was about as welcome as an unwashed goat at a wedding. I walked up to the signing area and there was a store employee there putting out books for the signing and four other authors milling around.

SO... I stood there and stood there while they talked, a closed unit, and looked at me sideways as if wondering why I was standing on the edge waiting to introduce myself.
Employee: "Can I help you?" subtext: you crazy nut bag who is hanging around like a derelict.
Me: "Hi. I'm Joshilyn--I'm here for the signing."
Employee: OH! Great! Well, just a second, we are almost set up.

SO then the other four authors start trying to give me promotional material and asking me who I am there to see. I am confused. I don't get it. Then I notice that they have set up four chairs at the table and are setting out four books....none of the books are mine.
SO I think, maybe I am in the wrong place.

Me: Am I in the wrong place? I'm Joshilyn Jackson. Here for the booksigning?
Store Employee: Nope you are in the right place. This is the booksigning.

So I wait. The other four authors begin to look at me like I am a leper who is hanging around their table to gawk at them and not buy their books.
Author 1: Are you...missing something?
Me: Yes, I am missing my book.
They stare at me like I'm crazy, all clearly thinking that there is a table full of books right in front of me and any ONE of them could EASILY be mine, signed and everything, but right now I am just looming over the table and scaring the nice people away. I am beginning to think I AM crazy.

Just then the events planner who arranged for me to be there comes up and gently takes my arm and says "I need you to come with me." I am led away like a lunatic who is bothering the paying customers, my cheeks on fire. I don't think a single one of the four authors realized what was going on---it just looked like a manager came and mercifully took the weirdo off.

The events planner walks me away and gently explains that she was unable to order my book. See, it's three months before the paperback comes out, so the call for buy backs already happened, and it flummoxed her computer. She forgot to follow up with her Warner rep or, indeed, with me (I could have easily gotten them for her had I known), and then apparently forgot that I was coming at all, so subsequently she forgot to call and tell me that there was no reasons for me to be here AT ALL, primped up in my nice skirt, missing my fair, and looking like a whack-job.

I tried to be gracious about it but I think I failed. I was standing there, you know, kinda pole-axed. I wasn't sure what to do.
Note to self: I SHOULD HAVE JUST GRACIOUSLY SAID OH WELL OOPS IT HAPPENS AND LEFT.
Note to you: IF YOU ARE EVER IN THIS SITUATION, GRACIOUSLY SAY OH WELL OOPS IT HAPPENS AND LEAVE.
Because trust me, nothing that follows is going to get a even a tiny bit pleasanter. It's like gettign whacked with a hammer and then staying by the mad carpenter's toolbox, wondering if the screwdriver through the eye will feel better. Hint: it won't. But ALAS, I did NOT graciously say, oops well it happens, and leave. I was busy being flummoxed and standing like a cow with my mouth hanging open.

The computer said they had one copy of my book in, so the events lady (who was SO nice to me and apologetic, I have to say) went to find it so I could at least sign their one book's worth of store stock. I waited, thinking I would sign that one book and then do the gracious oops thing and leave.

A woman I think was the manager came up.
Her: We don't have your book in stock, huh?
Me: Nope. Paperback is coming out soon, so this happens.
Her: *condescending, slightly preachy tone* Maybe if you set it up in advance, we can have a signing for you here when the paperback comes out.
Me: *re-pole-axed* Um...what? Oh, um...okay.
Her: *clearly offended* Well, you don't sound very ENTHUSIASTIC about it...
Me: I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be ungracious, I just..It's no big deal, but I am missing my church function to come do this. I wish someone had called me, you know?

It becomes clear to me in the middle of this conversation, while the manager is looking at me like I am both a MORON and a JERK, that she has NO IDEA I have been INVITED. She thinks I have just WANDERED in during the middle of them trying to pull of a HUGE in store event with 4 LEGITIMATE authors and give-aways and drawings and balloons, and demanded to be included, and then gotten all shirty and hateful because they didn't HAPPEN to have twenty copies of my year old book on hand.

Just then the poor events manager creeps back to tell me that the one copy of my book they have has apparently been shelved wrong and she can't find it. We stood there looking at each other, perfectly in accord in our wish that the earth would open and eat us. Hell would have been a more comfortable environment at that point. I think I felt about three inches tall, if that. I think she felt about two inches tall.

The manager, meanwhile, still hasn't realized I was actually invited...

She asks the events planner: Did you call her? (She means Did you call her to INVITE her.)
The events planner says, sheepishly: No. I didn't. (She means, she forgot to call and CANCEL)

At that point, I cracked my hollow tooth, drank the lethal droplet inside it, and mercifully died. Or I straightened it out with the manager that I had been invited, agreed with the events planner that we would have to do better for Between, Georgia, said goodbyes all around, and walked out to my car feeling like my spine was on fire. I got the door shut and started the car, and I swear to you, the fact that I was two blocks away before I burst into tears is the one thing about all of yesterday that I can reasonably be proud of.

PS: Yes, Virginia, I DID just end a sentence with a preposition. I feel I EARNED it.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:37 AM | Comments (28)

March 24, 2006

A Conversation with Scott

Last night, late, when Scott and I had turned off all the lights downstairs and headed up to our room, I paused between the doorways to my children's bedrooms and listened to them breathe. I had one of my rare moments when I realize I do have a little piece of soul tucked way down deep under all the glib I throw around.

Me: *tearing up a little* Isn't it amazing? We did that. You and me. We made little people. Out of US. And now here they are, their own little separate selves.
Him: Yeah. (Subtext: I am bored of this conversation already and it just started. PS, are you back on that bad, bad cocaine?)
Me: But we MADE them. Out of GAMETES. Out of essentially NOTHING. You and I made PEOPLE out of biological EFFLUVIUM. How can you not see that this is a miracle?
Him: Cats can do the same thing, honey.
Me: *glare*
Him: Don't ge me wrong. I'm nuts about our kids, and I am strongly in favor of the process for making them. But I'm not going to get choked up over Biology 101.
Me: But the Hoover Dam, that brings a tear to your jaundiced eye???
Him: Show me a cat who can make the Hoover Dam.
Me: But the planet MARS, that makes your heart go pitterypatpat?
Him: Nah, Mars is just a planet. *perks up* But one day people will GO to Mars! Now THAT will be COOL.
Me: You know, they don't call it THE TRUCK OF LIFE. Like some dirty old truck comes and drops off a pile of babies and you grab the best, fattest one. They call it The MIRACLE of Life.
Him: Well, they don't call it the Hoover Meh. They call it the Hoover....Damn!

And he said Damn like Will Smith always does, you know, with the drawn out A, like he'd just seen something astounding.

Me: SO! THIS is what happens when you let Discovery Channel Geeks Breed, huh?
Him: Pretty much.
...
Me: Cool.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:18 AM | Comments (14)

March 23, 2006

Blogging for Books Finalists (Alternate Title: Sucks to be Deb)

Dear Pretty Internets...

Wow. So all I have to do is get all snitty and threaten to close down B4B, and look how you rally. You are awesome. Way to positively reinforce my temper tantrums!!! If I hurl myself down and kick my little boots, I bet you would give me Turkish Delight. I KID, I KID. Seriously, THANK YOU for the great reading with my morning coffee every day.

I am sorry for DebR. She had the unenviable task of choosing finalists, and she managed it. Now these seven will be sent on to Sarah Smiley, and she will choose first second and third place. First place gets a signed copy of her very funny and warm hearted book GOING OVERBOARD.

smileycover.jpeg

After next month, which will be Special Guest Blogged and Guest Authored by Autumn and E. Lockhart respectively, I think it's time to change up the rules and add incentives and such. I think if you win first place, you should retire from B4B, get a permanent link on my site to your blog, and be eligible to be a B4B special guest blogger. What do you think? Now, Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's DEB!


You know how they (you know...the "They" everyone always talks about!) say "be careful what you wish for because you might get it"? I suppose I should listen.

When I posted an entry on my blog encouraging people to enter B4B this month, I said, " I want lots and LOTS of entries to choose from this month. I want to weep from joy at how hard it is to narrow down so many wonderful entries, not weep in despair at how little there is to choose from!" and that's exactly what I got.

There were nearly 40 entries. (YAY, pretty internets!!) On my first read-through I narrowed it down to 18 that I wanted to read again. After reading those 18 a second time, and occasionally even a third time, I narrowed the field to 10. Then the task got hard...really, REALLY hard.

I read those final 10 entries again, and again, and again...I lost count of how many times. Some made me laugh. Some made me get weepy. I can't tell you how much I wish I was choosing 10 finalists instead of 7. It was hard to narrow all the entries down to 10, but heartbreaking to narrow down my 10 favorites to only 7. But in the end, I did it. After all, it's what I asked for.

So here they are, the seven finalists, (in the order in which they posted their entries to the B4B comments):

Wilson World
For What It's Worth
Cynical Optimism
Diary of a Crazed Mommy
Pith, Marrow, and Coffee Spoons
Excruciating Minutiae
Figure Skating Blog


I hope everyone who entered this month will try again other months. Some of you will never know how close you came to seeing your entry on that list!

DebR

THANKS, DEBR!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:06 PM | Comments (10)

March 22, 2006

Some Conversations With Maisy

She is a surprising little person. She is such a sunshiney little thing, so pretty and prancy-aroundy and cheerful with her small but excrutiatingly CARRYING voice, so high-pitched and relentless that we have nicknamed her Duck Quacky. Somethimes we forget the inner Maisy, and can go for for days with no understanding that there is a fierce and willful thing behind the pale curls and perfectly round blue eyes. She's mighty. She is a small force of nature. She's just so fluffy that it's easy to forget. I am working hard to not forget, or this child is going to be ruling my life before she is ten. Next week, beautiful Maisy who was barely two when I started this blog will be FOUR. YEARS. OLD.

She's also--- like me, like her father, like her brother--- just a little bit...odd.

This morning we had a VERY sincere conversation. She came staggering down the steps in her pink cow long johns and crept up into my lap. I hit save and cuddled her close. She was very sleep and solemn.

Me: Good morning. I am so happy to see my little girl. I love you!
Her: I love you too...you are my favorite mommy. But Mommy, don't forget. I am on Daddy's team.
Me; Well, that's a great team to be on, because your daddy is da bomb. Isn't Daddy da bomb?
Her: No. He's a horrible beast.
Me: *somewhat surprised* He is???
Her: Oh, yes. He never lets me do anyfing. Except there is one speck of nice in his brain. That's the piece that let me droozle the honey on my own sandwiches.

And then she hopped down and trotted off to find the horrible beast and tell him good morning.

OR like last night, at dinner, we were having a chat about whose fault it is that the cat is so dern fat.

Me: I blame certain small people who keep giving him food any time his bowl is empty.
Sam: I blame the cat---he asks, Mom. He keeps asking.
Scott: Well, you don't have to say yes. He can't open the bag and scoop out more food. I blame the short people with opposable thumbs.
Maisy: I blame the French.
*silence*
Me: What? What did you say? Did you say you blame the French?
Maisy: Yes. I blame the French.
Scott: Well, they do like their sauces, the French.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKAY. I have NO IDEA where that came from. But the cat IS fat, and while French WOMEN may never get fat, there is no bestselling book purporting the truth about French male felines. Perhaps some dude in a Chapeau is creeping in late at night and filling the cat's dish with foie gras and a nice cut of fillet with Bernaise. APPROPOS OF NOTHING: Did you know the literal translation for foie gras is "fatty liver?" I am thinking of heading to the courthouse and legally changing the cat's name to Foie Gras, because he is brownish and ruddy like a liver, and big enough to make three respectably sized cats.

But I cannot allow Maisy to go about blaming the cat's lard problem on FRANCE.... It used to be, whenever we saw the WARNER BROTHERS thing on a movie or whatnot, we would clap and hoot. But Warner sold Warner Books to a French company, and now we clap and hoot whenever we see anything French. Which, if we decide the CAT is fat due to French food we are going to have to clap and hoot every time he takes a bite, which means we will be clapping and hooting all the livelong day and night. Too exhausting.

I have decided to blame Germany...all the wursts, you understand.

MEANWHILE! I will have the B4B finalists for you TOMORROW. And may I say, I DO NOT envy DEBR of Red Shoe Ramblings., with 40+ entries to muck about with. I just finished reading the last one, and I could MAYBE narrow it to twenty. VIVA LA DELEGATION. LONG MAY DELEGATION REIGN!

Then Sarah Smiley, will have the unenviable task of choosing first, second and third place, and the winner will get a signed first edition of her book, GOING OVERBOARD

Posted by joshilyn at 8:40 AM | Comments (15)

March 20, 2006

Everything I Meant to Tell You But Didn't Tell You

1) I loved The Libertine---was thoroughly entertained and engaged every living second. I know the reviews have been MIXED, but I think this is because you expect one thing and get another. The ads make you think it will be a sort of Dangerous Liasons "Depravity is good nasty naughty fun" type thing, but what you get is actual and accurate depravity, which isn't pretty. If you are expecting depravity as an adorable rabbit, depravity-LITE, it's like you think you are taking a big bite of pudding, and your mouth is braced for sugar, but it turns out to be mashed potatoes.

I went in expecting a spectacular performance from Depp, and got it. In spades. I don't know another living actor who could have pulled this off excepting John Malkovich, and he isn't in the right age range anymore. Samantha Morton is a MARVEL, and I am irked with the reviews that ignore the most important relationship in the film---his relationship with theatre. Theatre is practically a character in this movie, personified by Morton's note-perfect performance. All my thumbs are up.

2) BY THE WAY, Johnny Depp is hot. Just sayin'.

3) I did something in NYC I STILL feel humiliated about---I payed FIFTY AMERICAN DOLLARS for someone to WASH MY HAIR and then blow it dry. CAN YOU BELIEVE? I have a host of excuses as to why I did it lined up. Let me trot them out for you:

a) I am HOPELESS at drying my own hair----It NEVER looks good. NEVER. I have the best hairdresser in the UNIVERSE here at home, and she gives me SPECTACULAR cuts and the world's most subtle and lovely brown on brown on brown high and low lights, and it is ALL wasted because no matter what products I use, no matter the drier or the brushes--I cannot make it DO RIGHT. The NYC stylist even said, as she blew out my hair, "This cut, it's fantastic! When you walked in I had no idea the cut was so good. Did you....sleep on it funny?" I said, "Um, yeah, that must be it."

b) I was doing an INTERVIEW a LONG one, on CAMERA, which always makes me PUKE LEVEL nervous, and I DID NOT want to have BAD HAIR. I always have bad hair, I can live with bad hair for a 3 minute regualar interview, but this was a LONG thing, like 20 minutes, for Bookscan, and I wanted GOOD HAIR for once in my freakin' life.

c) Later that day, I was meeting my new publicist. Meeting new people ALSO makes me puke level nervous. He turned out to be just grand---very understated and comes across as quietly confident. I like him and I quite trust him---I felt like he liked me and my book and will do a great job for it--- but if I had had BAD HAIR who knows how it might have gone??!?!

d) And I spent the rest of the day in the Warner offices where good hair ABOUNDS.

e) AND I knew I would be wearing PANTYHOSE which no one ever does in NYC, they just march around in the SNOW with bare legs or in fishnets, and me, in my role as Great Big Hick Who Gets Cold, couldn't HACK it, so I KNEW i would put the hose on and I thought, "Well, if I have good hair though, for ONCE, maybe I will forget I am not cool enough to go barelegged in March in Manhattan."

Those are all my reasons, and yet, I still feel a little bit dirty for doing it. I might as well have set 50 bucks on FIRE. Shame, shame, shame! I am SO vain it is GROSS. I KNOW it is gross, but still, I sat there and let the woman blow my hair out. It looked, quite frankly, GREAT, but that did not stop me from feeling like a wealthy 80 year old cruise-a-holic, which is the sort of person I imagine getting their hair blown out regularly. I felt like I should head up to deck 7 for some shuffleboard AFTER, or maybe stay a little longer and get a nice blue rinse. OH well. Truthfully? The CAMERA was the capper. That long interview. Had I to do it over again, I would go get it blown out. So. How sincere can my shame possibly be?

4) It was always my plan to buy myself a pair of OBSCENELY fabulous shoes if the film option for gods sold, and it did (HURRAY! And this means nothing, you understand, it;s just the OPTION, so do not get excited or anything). I OWE myself some shoes. I mean, like, Choo level faboo, you know? SO I was told the BEST shoe shopping was on 8th Street. HUZZAH! Me and my American Express headed off to 8th....Avenue. Which, it turns out, is COMPLETELY different from 8th street. Heh.

5) I did find a pair of MODERATELY DELIGHTFUL shoes that I was going to get in LIEU of Choos, because at 200 bucks they cost less than a third of what Choos would cost (these are Adrienne Vittadini) and I LOVED them and I would wear them a LOT because they aren't too fancy for daytime or too expensive to be horrified of harming... I tried them on and LORDY but they were adorable, and then the only pair in my size had CLEARLY been taken out clubbing by someone who works there and then put back with a worn patch on the suede and a stain on the fabric heel. I am trying to decide now if I should order them off the internet. Here they are:

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What do you think? Order? OR! hold out for something TRULY repulsive and indulgent that I will never wear out of the house for fear of A SCUFF! PLUS I have no place to wear them, really, unless I suddenly get invited to become French, in which case I could legitimately throw them on with jeans to go for coffee or even with a bathrobe to go out and get the paper.

But I would sleep with them. And pet them. And march around my room in them....I would to love to have, maybe, the pale gold suede 4" inched heeled sandal called BEA I saw at jimmychoo.com which WILL NOT let me copy or save even the IMAGE, much less dare to dream of the shoe itself...OR the one below, which they have for more than Scott's car is worth at Bergdorf Goodman:

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Posted by joshilyn at 10:24 AM | Comments (16)

March 17, 2006

She Who Has Eaten of the Naughty Meats

At home, I try valiently to not eat the delicious (yet SAD! SO sad!) little Veals, But alas, once I am in NYC, a sort of "What's eaten in New York stays eaten in New York" attitude takes over, and I eat pretty, soulful, doe-eyed things that normally I might pass up. Not just the little veals...I ate all the darling-est and most oppressed animals here, smacking my lips with sorrowful relish.

IT IS THE MOST WRONG TO EAT THE LITTLE VEALS. And though not near as WRONG, it is equally sad to eat the adorable small quails, but impossible NOT to, once some cruel Frenchman has ALREADY gone and stuffed them with risotto and nestled them into a bed of tender spinach and porcini mushroom sauce. And what sort of soulless and rapacious ogre-gourmand could eat Bunny Caccitore, even if it WAS served with the most succulent and creamy polenta in the Universe? Oh, right. Me. And MAN, I feel TERRIBLE... but Thumper was delicious. I would do it again, had I the menu and the leisure to travel back in time and order over.

My editor kept ordering me desserts, too ---ordered them after I had made the SUPERHUMAN attempt to leave the dessert menu closed and say no thank you. It is one of her best qualities, I think---spontaneous dessert ordering. WINNER: Circo's Vanilla tartlet thing shaped like a small defenceless turtle, its back armored in roasted pignoli. If it HAD been a small defenceless turtle, I have NO doubt but that I would have popped the whole thing raw and living into my gob-hole. It's been that kind of week.

Wednesday, we scheduled a trip to the Musum of American Folk Art, which you should do, too, especially if you like textile art (AKA quilts) or if, say, your next book features a "textile artist" (AKA Quilter) and you need to be able to do enough research to legitimately call the day tax deductable before trit trotting off to see Spamalot, which was HILARIOUS and FANTASTIC and since the tickets cost 400 freaking dollars I am sure that play will also somehow be extremely important to my work. *cough* HA HA INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE! DID YOU SEE THAT FUNNY JOKE??? Please don't audit me. I promise to not even attempt to deduct my play tickets.

Back to the show...My favorite character was PATSY, played by "some guy with perfect comic timing" and that show still has a high-wattage star factor, in spite of the fact that my much-adored Tim Curry has stepped down. It was COOL to see David Hyde Pierce being hysterically dead pan up close and I was thrilled to see Hank Azaria. I have long been a Hank Azaria fan, so that was kinda special, and I am pleased to report that EVEN THOUGH Mr. Azaria has large soulful and beautiful brown eyes, I did not poach and eat him.

Thursday I had an interiew thing--I have to tell you about Thursday tomorrow, I did soemthing SO PRETENTIOUS I practically had to kill myself after....RIght now though I need to close and go meet Lani for coffee... You know Lani -- another Warner author http://lanidianerich.com SORRY no linky I am on the laptop and it being poo-ey. ALSO?? V key is still sticking. GRRRR.

Today I have lunch with my agent (where I will no doubt consume fillet of endangered komodo dragon) and then we head home.

See you back in Georgia, and I am SO THRILLED with all the B4B action. Oh pretty internets, you have SO come through.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:16 AM | Comments (16)

March 15, 2006

Some Random Neurons Firing in New York

This blog is generally PG, so I warn you, if you are my fourteen year old nephew, that this entry contains A Very Bad Word or two. I am QUOTING, so I have no choice. I know that if you are my fourteen year old nephew, that you NEVER hear A Very Bad Words like this in high school, so, I beg you to avert your eyes lest your young and tender mind be compromised...

* My son is nine now. A manling. Looks just like his dad, but I know he is my kid because when his teacher gave out spelling homework and the top question was, "List five words that rhyme with PAY," his first response was to look up and say, "How do you spell 'Cliche?'"

* I, the girl who wants to have a GPS chip implanted in her head to help her navigate to her own bathroom, have a strange and purely intuitive understanding of Public Transportation. London Tube or NYC Subway, hand me a metropass/token and a map, and I. Can. Get. You. Anywhere. It is SPOOKY, because ABOVE ground, I can't find my own butt. I spin like a dog chasing its tail and say, "I know my butt is back here somewhere...maybe I should have taken that hard left by my hipbone..."

* My dad and my husband are at home with my children...I asked Scott how Maisy was doing, and he said she is having trouble dragging her little finger around, what with my 170 pound father wound so completely around it.

* Yesterday, mom and I girded our loins, showed our passports, and crossed the boundary from Mahattan into Brooklyn. Some observations:

1) Brooklyn must have had a VERY long bleak and boring winter, because everyone has a brand new baby there.

2) Just like in Manhattan, the Brooklyn New Yorkers freaking LIVE to help tourists. Using my intuitive superpowers, I had the subways down cold, but as we zoomed around Brooklyn, New Yorker after New Yorker saw our piles of guidebooks and maps and INSISTED on helping us. One pretty young woman told us to imprint on her like ducklings---she was heading to our same spot and would show us where to transfer. On the second train, safely transferred, a wiry man with a dangerous (and oddly sexy) chipped tooth looked at me and Mom as we stood trying to pick a place to eat once we got back to Little Italy, and he insinuated himself in between us and began telling us exactly what we should do and see. Then he got a little FLUSHED with pleasure at his own helpfulness and put his face 6 inches from my mother's face. "MAN! I BET YOU DIDN'T YOU THINK NEW YORKERS WERE LIKE THIS, RIGHT? I BET YOU THOUGHT WE WERE ASSHOLES HUH? KINDA SCARY AND SHIT? BOOGA BOOGA AND SHIT?" he squawked, mildly terrifying us for the first time all day.

3) Just so you know? If you want to go to the Brooklyn Musuem---and they have a LOT of Rodin there, so you do--- all you have to do is march a mile down to the correct subway and then take 2 different trains and hike up from the Union War Memorial, passing through the GORGOEUS Litchfield House, all the way THROUGH Prospect Park, stopping at the Brooklyn Library to confirmthat yes, they DO have a copy of your book HEEHEE, and then eventually, say, three blisters later, you will come to a sign that tells you the Brooklyn Museum is actually CLOSED on Tuesdays. Heh.

4) We got lost immediately coming back from the closed musuem to the subway, I walked toward a little herd of young teenage boys who had big 70's inspired 'fros and their pants falling off, frontin' like playa-playas outside the MoJo Cafe. The second my mother and I approached, they snapped to and became smiley and 95% less slouchy. They called us Ma'am. When it became obvious that we were hopeless, one of them popped open his cell phone and gave us the number of a Brooklyn Cab Co. They were SO cute. BROOKLYN is so cute. I could completely see myself living in BROOKLYN, a feeling I have NEVER had while marching through Manhattan in the most painful shoes I can find. Breathing Manhattan air is a heddy, giddy thing to me, still, and something about being in the middle of the city I feel like Alice in Cooler-Than-You-Land, excited and interested and looky-aroundy, but certainly not a PART of it. I get a publishing industry contact high---this is our country's BOOKLAND, making the bg decisions about what the world will be reading, and since writing is my passion and my livlihood and reading is my drug of choice, I'm awestruck by it. It is also the place that ties with London for "Best Theatre in the Known Universe," and that's my second drug of choice...It's too much like Disneyland for Grown-ups to me to be RELAXING. BROOKLYN felt...homey.

5) We walked back to Manhattan at sunset, over the Brooklyn Bridge. If you ever go to New York, you have to do this. The skyline was so lovely, the Statue of Liberty standing in the harbor with the sky glowing orange behind her. I have to admit, my wizened raisin of a heart twitched and pulsed into life and I stopped for a minute to breathe in and simply love the living hell out of New York. I got teary looking at the space where the twin towers damn well ought to be, and had to turn my eyes back to the statue who stood facing way from the city, looking out over the water with her arm raised up in welcome.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:03 AM | Comments (15)

March 13, 2006

Blogging For Books

MAY I JUST SAY----if you like the BLOGGING FOR BOOKS contest, then please help get the word out on your blog. We had 8 entries last time, and it may simply be time for B4B to die a sad sad little death via ennui. We can stand around making tut-tut noises, me and the 8 purists who remain staunchly bloggerriffic, and together we shall shake our heads and say, SHE WAS A GOOD OLD DAWG, DOC, BUT IT'S HER TIME... I'm committed to running it up through April, and then we shall re-assess.

I am off to New York for the rest of the week, and shall blog sporadically about what's happening as the laptop allows...

Blogging 4 Books is LIVE NOW. We remember with fondness The Zero Boss, because he made it up. He stopped working for Blogging for Baby....where is he now? I do not know!

How to play: You blog on a chosen topic. You post a link to your blog entry in the comments below this entry. B4B closes at MIDNIGHT your time next Monday.

If you have no blog, you write the essay and cut and paste it (no attachments please) into an email to Ann Fitten (the Bloggess behind Edgy Mama) and ask her sweetly to host it for you.

Your special guest blogger this month is DebR, a former B4B winner with her blog Red Shoe Ramblings. She will narrow the entries down to seven.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author Sarah Smiley, whose book, GOING OVERBOARD chronicles the misadventures of a military wife. She will pick first, second and third place.

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The rights to GOING OVERBOARD were recently optioned by Kelsey Grammer's company, Grammnet, and Paramount Television. It is now in development to be a half-hour sitcom for CBS. Dude, that's just cool.

And now, THE TOPIC! As usual your topic relates to the book...

Write about the military. HOW BROAD IS THAT? SO broad. You can talk about anything from your own experiences in the military, or you own experiences as a pacifist, or how hot Jake Gillenhaal looked in Jarhead, or how Michael Kors could NOT see the military influence in Daniel V's collection for Project Runway, and how when Daniel pointed out the BIG HUGE OBVIOUS MILITARY boob-epaulette on the front of an evening dress Michael Kors said, "Oh, THAT thing. I can't tell you how bad I want to RIP IT OFF that otherwise pretty dress," or how the Trojans were SO dern dumb for buying that whole "hollow horse" ruse, and how the fact that the horse was used to SNEAK AN ARMY INSIDE THE CITY makes Trojan such a BAD name for a condom.

Heck, I'll take anything with the word SOLDIER in it.

GO!

Posted by joshilyn at 5:53 PM | Comments (49)

March 10, 2006

Deep Depp-tian Analysis

I used to think it was Tim Burton who had a problem. Scott and I used to joke about it, every time I would see Depp was going to be in another Tim Burton movie---how on earth, this time, was Burton going to attempt to do something to Depp that could successfully distract the eye away from the cheekbones, the hollowed eyes, the clean jawline, the cut glass mouth, all the things that together add up to the absolute sum of male loveliness. Depp's beauty is so preternatural, he can shame a breathtaking mountain vista into wishing it had run a comb through its hair. Maybe put some blush on.

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Depp's beauty is so is so, so, so beautiful that his ridiculous overabundance of acting talent seems like an afterthought. Something God tossed in as a bonus. And if you think about it, that has to kind of, well...suck.

Here he is, probably the most talented actor in several generations, fearless and resolute in his choices, creative, innovative...and yet, if you say Johnny Depp, the first that gets said, always, always, has to be, "Oh, lord, he's so HOT." Because MY LORD. He is SO hot. It's my secret theory that Depp's removal is the true reason behind some American's recent feelings toward France. Depp is our Helen, and if it takes a thousand ships and a 50 foot wooden horse puppet, we want his lithe butt back in California.

So it was my theory that Tim Burton was using Depp's beauty to experiment:
WHAT on earth could he do that would distract the eye and make something MORE extant than Depp's intrusive physical perfection. What could POSSIBLY to pull focus from The Face long enough to allow us to notice how nuanced and layered and startling Depp's performances are?

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Give him flock of seagulls hair and blades for hands? Still hot.
Ask him to wear women's lingerie and speak in Ed Wood's accent? Still SO hot.
Have him channel Angela Lansbury and Nancy Drew and coat him in gore while he shrieks like a big girl? So. Amazingly. Hot.
Put him in a pageboy and clown-white foundation and bug-eye glasses? Hothothothothot.
Most recently, he animated Depp! ANIMATED HIM, made him slim as a pencil with eyes as round as quarters, removed DEPP from the screen entirely and replaced him with a FACSIMILE that went down to mack fey-ishly upon a dead girl, and you know what? I thought that puppet was a little bit hot.

But the time has come to rediagnose. Maybe it was Burton's obsession to begin with, but Depp has joined him in recent years, striking out at his beauty at every turn. After all, Burton was nowhere to be seen when Depp replaced most of his teeth with black and gold rotty caps and channeled a perpetually drunken slightly gay pirate with a bath phobia. Never seen anything hotter, quite frankly.

And Depp let some chick DRILL HIS EYEBALLS OUT and then he wandered all over Mexico with NO EYEBALLS AT ALL. NOT EVEN A SCRAP OF EYEBALL! BIG RED GORY GAPING SOCKETS IN THE CENTER OF HIS FACE. I didn't see Burton there, and neither did Johnny, what with the HAVING NO EYEBALLS. Did I mention they DRILLED OUT HIS EYEBALLS?? You might can tell, the eyeball drilling thing gave me the complete wig. And yet, when he whipped off those sunglasses, I somehow looked past the gaping holes with the long blood-stripes for eyelashes and noticed...

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The man is Totally Hot.

Tonight I am going with my friend Karen to watch Johnny's hair drop out in scabrous syphilitic hunks while he prances and gibbers wearing a strap on metal proboscus over the rotten scrap of his former nose, and you know what? I've seen the trailers. I have to say, he looks FANTASTIC as he dies of VD in a sanitarium.

I'll tell you his saving grace, as an actor. It's not that he's going to succeed where Burton, an endlessly inventive director, failed. I can't ever forget he's beautiful---if the eyeball thing didn't do it, THEN NOTHING WILL. But it doesn't matter, because every time I see him in a role, I DO forget he's Johnny Depp.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:16 PM | Comments (22)

March 9, 2006

GUEST AUTHOR: Cindy Cruciger

I'm going to let Cindy Cruciger talk today, so that I can get a shovel and begin hurling things out of my house...There is no other way to catch up in the POST FLU APOCAPLYPSE in which I find myself stranded....Here's Cindy, and after she talks some, I will ask her three questions:

I believe that some people are just plain haunted. I think that certain people are lightning rods for ghosts. I think they grow up with it, learn to live with it and ignore it – to the point where they one day find themselves in serious trouble. That is the crux of my heroine’s character in the Revenge Gifts chronicles.

Revenge Gifts takes place over thirteen days spanning a full moon. Tara Cole is an extremely powerful attractant to ghosts, specifically ghosts seeking revenge. One spirit attracted to Tara in particular is the voodoo loa Erzulie, goddess of love, envy, jealousy and revenge. In thirteen days Tara’s life is turned upside down by a Reversal of Fortune curse placed on her by an angry recipient of one of her revenge gifts. The weird wasteland that was Tara’s life turns around with a vengeance and he ten year dating dry spell? Over. But with all things good in a garden of evil a price must be paid.

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This is not your typical romance. This is not a romance for normal people. Revenge Gifts is a romance for the lunatic fringe.

JJ: You say you believe some people are "just plain haunted." Have you ever had an encounter with a ghost?

CC: I think every place I’ve lived was haunted. The most haunted was the house on Kilgore Road in Orlando, Fl. The Amityville house had nothing on us. Except our ghost was a ghost and not the devil. ;-)

JJ: You say you write romance "for the lunatic fringe." Hmm, interesting...Who is your audience?

CC: I wrote Revenge Gifts for my sister Kimmy. She’s in her early thirties and just plain strange. Essentially I wrote it for anyone who was bored with the traditional romance.

JJ: What's next for you?

CC: I am finishing the sequel to Revenge Gifts. Envy.exe. I just blogged it in fact.

Thanks Cindy. I apprecate you taking over for today, as I am looking at an ocean of crap that needs to be cleaned up here in Flu-Land....I am going to need a bigger boat.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:46 PM | Comments (2)

March 8, 2006

I Am Not Preefreadign This Entry. <---see

I misplaced February. Or, the flu and the audiobook TOOK February. I was sick for more than a week, Sam missed four days of school and a weekend, Maisy was down for a week and a half, NONE of these illnesses overlapped by more than a day or so --- when you add up all those sick days and throw in four days of taping an audiobook, February is gone. It's a short month to begin with. I think I got LESS work done on the draft in February than I got done in FREAKING DECEMBER.

Yesterday at bookstore where I was buying more Joe R. Lansdale novels, I stooped to write a check and when I got to that DATE slot I paused, staring off into space with the universal expression for "clinically brain dead" on my face. I'd be standing there still if the bookseller had not said, "It's the seventh." I looked up at her with absolute sincerity and asked, "The seventh of WHAT?" Her eyes widened marginally and she said, "March?" I wrote it down, March 7, and then stared intensely at my check for another endless thirty seconds until she added, "2006." I wrote THAT down too. Then I bought the biggest cup of coffee in America and drilled a hole in my skull and poured the boiling black caffiene directly onto my quivering brain.

It didn't help much, obviously. I STILL forgot about the Blogging for Books contest. Because I forgot it was March. I do not see how I will ever in my life get back on top of....my life. My life is currently on top of me, and from where I lie, it feels like my life is jogging in place, maybe doing a little stomping. Speaking as the pile of smashed person underneath it, let me tell you, my life could stand to lose a few pounds.

I will start B4B NEXT Monday, in the middle of the month, and it can run while I am in New York. SORRY!

OKAY SO. Flaming cocktails, right?

Here's the thing, right at the tale end of February, just after Sam and I took our turns being sick and right before I began taping Between and Maisy began her own girl-power veriosn of Flu-palooza, the festival of birthdays happened. February 25, 26, and 27th are Scott's, Sam's, and then my birthdays, respectively. Maisy clicks over on the numerically correct day---the 28th, but of March. Month late. SO. Scott and I kinda abdicate our birthdays so that we can give Sam his own instead of having it lost in a parent party sandwich.

SO we asked him what he wanted to do for his biorthday and he said those three little words that send parents everywhere scrabbling for the Prozac....
Chuck.
E.
Cheese.

On a normal weekend, I would rather scedule some exploratory dental surgery than darken the door of the house of mouse. Still it's my kid's birthday. If he wants to drag us down into the seventh circle of Dante's hell, then I'll bake a cake and pack up some streamers and balloons to decorate the bows of the centaurs who stand and plunk arrows into the murderers who try to creep up the banks of the river of blood in an eternal ritual that really, when you think about it, is a LOT like Whack-A-Mole. Actually? A blood river full of murderers is probably a more peaceful spot that Chuck's place, and if the screams of the damned are wearing, at least the damned do not emit and cacaphony of rhythmic electronic beeping noises that make me, after 10 short minutes, curl up in a fetal postion under the salad bar and begin clawing at my ears. BUT I DIGRESS.

We decided, rather than the ten kid Chuck Party, to let him have his best friend sleep over. They would be taken to dine at the good Chinese place and THEN to CEC, and in the morning we scheduled an at home party with a pinata and more friends and such. So Scott and I did rock-paper-scissors. When something hateful approaches, like POKEMON THE MOVIE is coming out, or a Chuck visit looms, Scott and I traditionally play rock-paper-scissors to see who actually had to chaperone the awful thing. We do this because I am an intuitive GENIUS when it comes to rock-paper-scissors with Scott; I can SMELL him readying to throw SCISSORS from 2.7 miles away. I could just let Scott take him and save the drama, but I like to preserve the illusion of fairness. And truly, it IS an illusion, the one time my psychic mind-hamster was asleep at the wheel and threw rock when he unthinkably and capriciously decided to throw PAPER, and I should have had to take Sam to some horrid SPORT something, Scott took Sam ANYWAY. SO. We played rock-paper-scissors, and it was decided by my Paper that SCOTT would take the boys to Mouseland.

EXCEPT...On the Friday this was all scheduled, I finished reading the audiobook. I had spent FOUR DAYS in a box talking, ad then I would go home and pass out. When I emerged on Friday, I felt like I had not seen or talked to Scott in 10 years, and I REALLY like Scott. And it was OUR birthday too and I had not even TALKED to him really in DAYS. So I got home and saw Scott was leaving with the boys and my mouth opened, and my mouth said, "I'm going to Chuck E. Cheese with you." Everyone standing in the room who was over 5 feet tall looked at my mouth like it had just asid, "I know! Let's try cannibalism!" Me included. But my mouth had said it. SO off we went.

We got to the Chinese place and ate and it was SO nice to sit by Scott and talk to Scott, but in the back of my head, I had this creeping horror rearing up from under the sludge where I used to keep my brain when I had one befoer I began taping an audiobook, and the horror was rearing because because I KNEW CEC was NEXT. So I flipped through the drink menu and saw they had a FLAMING PINEAPPLE COCKTAIL. It was literally the most expensive thing on the menu. You can have the three course dinner for two for LESS than ONE Flaming Pineapple Cocktail. I tapped Scott on the shoulder and my mouth said, "I want a Flaming Pineapple Cocktail." I FORGAVE my mouth immediately for its earlier shenanigan. GOOD MOUTH I thought, and gave it a serreptitious pat with my napkin.

"What's in it?" said Scott.
I shrugged. He ordered. It came.
It was a HUGE pineapple that had been hollowed out and draped with flowers and flled up with pinkish goldish liquids. It was ON FIRE. It had a TEENY PINK UMBRELLA and a PLASTIC GIRAFFE IN IT. The boys were MIGHTILY impressed, and it tasted like candy. I AM SO FOR THE FLAMING PINEAPPLE COCKTAIL. I am running on a Flaming Pineapple Cockail platform in the upcoming election. I had ONE, ONE of these things, and suddenly, CEC seemed like a GREAT idea. I played Skeeball for a solid hour, scoring 90's because I kept shooting for the 100 point hole in the tippy top and missing and getting 10 points and cackling, and then I let Sam have all my tickets so he could get himself a Fantastic Four notebook. I can't remember when I've had a better time. I seriously think this thing was full of OPIUM or or the brain drippings of atheletes who drop dead just when they are chock full of endorphins, because I like a glass of wine with dinner and suchlike, but there isn't enough Shiraz in the WORLD tomake me like CHUCK E. CHEESE....

Happy birthday to ME.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:25 AM | Comments (16)

March 6, 2006

The House of Plague, Part Deux

I've been neglecting you, Pretty Internets, but you see, Maisy has stayed ill. Today is the first day in eight days she woke up fever free. *knocks wood* We'll see how it holds up, but I knew she was truly, FINALLY on the mend yesterday; she rose up off the sofa and started tormenting her brother.... You know that song The Lost Boys sing in the Disney version of Peter Pan? The one about follow the leader? Well. MAISY sure does. She walked around the house, singing it in her high pitched, piercing voice (one of her many nicknames is Duck-Quacky because of her weird little adorable voice). She followed him all over the house, copying his walk and gestures, and singing...

Maisy: We're following the leader, the leader, the leader
Sam: Quit following me.
Maisy: We're following the leader, the leader, the leader
Sam: Are you copying me? You better not be copying me!
Maisy: Maisy: We're following the leader, who ever he may be
Sam: Stop singing! Stop following me!
Maisy: Di dum! Dee dee! Duh Deedle-y Dum Te Day!
Sam: MAISY. STOP IT OR I WILL TELL.
Silence.
Sounds of Sam stomping upstairs alone.
More Silence.
Maisy: *very softly* We're following the nobody, the nobody, the nobody...

Meanwhile, I know everyone will blog about the Oscars, but I DO have to say a couple of things.

1) They should FIRE Jon Stewart. The Oscars are NOT NOT NOT supposed to be SHORT, pants-peeingly FUNNY, and more entertaining than a couple of the films that got statues.... They are supposed to go on for five hours and make you hate all of Hollywood and the concept of movies by the end. Even the pre-Oscar comedy skit before (which TRADITIONALLY should be career-endingly humiliating for the host and thump to the floor like a balloon filled with dead mackerel) was GENUINELY funny.

2) What was with all the chicks in ivory and white? It looked like a second wedding convention. Or a fifth wedding convention...we were in Hollywood, after all. Congratulations J-Lo for putting on some stinking GREEN in that otherwise almost oppressive sea of cream. Also, the woman who wrote the song from Crash had on a GORGEOUS dress, but it was the exact same shade of ivory pink as her SKIN. Her arms kept disappearing so that when the camera panned back, she looked like a limbless worm. Her stylist should be SPANKED---she was a gorgeous creature and needed to wear something with a color. ANY color, really.

3) The "Kiera Knightly, Acting While Beautiful" campaign ad made wine come out my nose, I was laughing so hard.

4) In every race but ONE, if I felt like I had a stake in it and was REALLY pulling for someone, that person WON. Since it was obvious that Johnny Depp was not going to win this year (although I did a mail in vote for him for his role in "most talented actor of his generation in every movie he ever freakin' did that you have completely ignored, all the way up until he did, EXCUSE ME, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME, Cap'n Jack Sparrow, which, yes, okay he was amazing, he is always amazing but um, WHERE WERE YOU when he CHANNELED Hunter S. Thompson or sold a lot of BLOW or went undercover into the mob for decades or acted with blades for hands or unleashed a combination of Angela Lansbury and Nancy Drew to create the best Ichabod Crane that EVER EXISTED *deeeeeeeep breath*) ANYWAY. Considering Depp was not an option, I TRULY wanted Phillip Seymour Hoffman to take it. And I of course was SCREAMING when my southern homegirl Reese gave possibly the cutest, funniest, sweetest Oscar speech that EVER happened.

5) Jessica Alba and Hillary Swank are two of the prettiest women on the planet---and I like watching both of them. I think Alba is HUGELY under-used and would love to see her take on something meaty, and I've watched for Swank ever since I used to call her Pretty Fox Pop on 90210 (because I thought she looked like a fox and "popped"). And it was back on 90210 that.... I PREDICTED SHE WOULD BREAK OUT! Anyway, I like her so much, I would probably watch in a movie called "Hillary Swank Mops the Floor." But. Someone needs to tell them that yes, Virginia, you CAN be too thin. They have those starved looking, sad armpits you only ever see in heroin rehab and Hollywood. If they would each gain five pounds they would look sexy as well as being beautiful and talented.

I am sure they care passionately about my opinion, and are buying some Ben and Jerry's Phish Food to try and get a sliver of armpit-padding even as we speak.

7) Did all the stylists dance off to shove every woman they could find into something cream (with no regard for skin tone) and forget to DRESS THE MEN? WHAT was with all the cock-eyed, askew bow ties? It looked like middle school PROM in there.

8) It is TRADITIONAL for the person who wins for costume design to look INSANE. You are a costume designer, for the love of all that is holy. You need to strap a dead chicken to your head and wear tinfoil shoes and pasties. What was WITH the woman who won? Her dress was flattering, innovative, stylistically connected ot the movie she was nommed for....yish. It's like they gave the Oscar for costumes to a person who UNDERSTANDS CLOTHES. Weird.

9) HELLO Did you realize that was DAWSON'S CREEK chick, up for best supporting?? I didn't recognize her, even in the movie, did not clock that it was her until the awards ceremony itself. WOW! Way to go, you.

10) Merryl Streep and Lily Tomlin should get nommed next year for best performance while actually AT the Oscars....

And lastly,

11) I double plus heart Jon Stewart.

Let's OSCAR DISH! DID YOU WATCH? DID I MISS ANYTHING?

Posted by joshilyn at 8:07 AM | Comments (19)

March 2, 2006

3 Questions with Michelle Richmond, Coming to You LIVE and Germ Soaked from The House of Plague

We will never be well here again. Ever not never. POOR Maisy Jane wins Illest Little Pill of All, and I spent a goodly portion of yesterday taking her to the vet, where she sat around soaking in the germs of 1,000 other little sick puppies, and hacking and coughing hers out all over them in return.

Sam was given the all clear to return to school, and he sat on the exam table forcing air out in huge dramatic barks and saying, "Are you POSITIVE? Because I still have a quite a COUGH here!" He went for the Oscar, but since he didn't manage to produce any actual chunks of diseased lung, he was just now shoved out the door, into the cruel cold world toward school --- a dreadful place where you can't wear pajamas and play Game Cube Pokemon all day.

Maisy Jane, meanwhile, had the doctor head-scratching. They gagged her with a Q-tip and then said, "Hrm. Not strep." So they poked a hole in her and sucked out a pippette full of blood. (She was Very Angry Indeed. Looked up at me with eyes like damp and trampled pansies, and said, "But WHY? Why would she DO that?" and then stared with moist accusation at the nurse.) Her blood's white count was only slightly elevated, BORDERLINE indicative of pnuemonia. They put that little Oxygen Blood Level Reader Guy on a NON poked finger, and it hovered around 95/96. It should be 99 or 100, but you really need it to say 92 or 93 to clearly say "LOOK! PNUEMONIA!" SO. There was nothoing to be done except send her over to the hospital for a chest X-ray.

I immediately gave up ANY hope of getting home when Scott did and cooking us a nice supper. Three hours, minimum, I figured, and decided to run the kids through the Taco Bell drive through...but the doctor looked around furtively (in retrospect he was no doubt checking to make sure no Actual Rich People were hiding under the exam table ready to demand my income tax statements for the last three years before allowing his next move), and whispered, "I am not going to send you to the hospital. Go on over to the NEW IMAGING CENTER near Target Road."

I wondered, "Why the Rich People's Police Check?" but only until I GOT there. HOLY CROWS! It smelled like orange blossoms and Eue de New Building, the chairs were fat with cushions, the carpet as lush and sproingy as monkey grass, it was well lit by pretty lamps, attractive ladies with well manicured hands and shining, clean faces processed us immediately, took us back, and I had a cappucino and a foot massage from Sven while they snapped Maisy's chest. OKAY the Sven thing might be a SLIGHT exaggeration, but I swan, I want to be a multi-millionaire before I am sick again, so all my medical procedure stories can be like this. Of course, we don't have a Rich People's Pediatrician, so no one ever called me with the results and I sat up half the night and worried about how to keep her ELEVATED and PROPPED so her lungs would not fill up and drown her, but also not so propped that she wouldn't sleep, and without so many pillows that she would smother while sleeping deeply under the influence of her meds.

I say all this to say, I cannot tell you the FLAMING PINEAPPLE COCKTAIL thing today---and once again it is NOT THAT BIG A DEAL just an amusing story I wanted to tell and now it's going to get built up into MYTHOLOGICAL PINK SOCK EXPECTATIONS and disappoint everyone, but no help for it. Flaming cocktails tomorrow. Right now, while Maisy still sleeps, I need to go lie down and watch my tape of PROJECT RUNWAY and sulk. SO, I am going to let someone else talk, and I LIKE her. You will like her, too, betcha. She grew up along the Gulf Coast (my stomping grounds!) and, based on this interview, I can't wait to read her book. She hooked me.

Her name is Michelle Richmond, and she is a big smarty, and her first novel, Dream of the Blue Room, is just now coming out in paperback...She talks better than I could about the meat of the novel in the interview, so I won't say what it's about here-----just that I want to read it.

JJ: Tell me how you came to write this particular book?

MR: A trip to China in 1998 inspired me to write Dream of the Blue Room. I've always been drawn to water, and this novel is set on two rivers--the Yangtze in China, and a small river town in Alabama (based on a town near where I grew up). Three Gorges Dam, which was under construction at the time and which resulted in the inundation of thousands of villages along the Yangtze, was very much part of the inspiration for the book. I was also interested in prejudice and its often brutal consequences. The protagonist, Jenny, travels to China to spread the ashes of her best friend from high school, a Chinese American girl named Amanda Ruth who was murdered in Alabama twelve years before the novel begins.

blueroom.jpeg

JJ: Dream of the Blue Room takes place in part aboard a cruise chip in China, but is greatly concerened with events in a small Alabama town and has been called a Southern Gothic novel... Do you think of yourself as a Southern writer? Why or why not?

MR: The emotional heart of Dream of the Blue Room is in a small river town in Alabama. I grew up in Mobile, spent a lot of time at Gulf Shores, so my identity was formed on the Gulf Coast; the bulk of my memory is grounded there. I certainly think of myself as a Southern writer in terms of subject matter. My first book, a collection of linked stories titled The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress, centers on four sisters growing up in Alabama, and follows them as they move off to forge their separate identities. My work might also be classified as Southern in that it is very much defined by place, as so much of Southern literature is. Dream of the Blue Room wouldn't work, in my opinion, if it were only a story of the Yangtze River. The back story, which takes up roughly half of the novel, explores the protagonist's teenage years in Alabama, and it is the events of her adolescence that conjure the story into existence. Without Amanda Ruth, and the intense friendship that Jenny shared with her in Alabama, there would be no novel. The "blue room" of the title is actually a room in the boathouse on the fictional Demopolis River--the blueness comes from the way light filters through the walls onto the water beneath the boat.

JJ: In a related follow-up --- You're an ex-pat who grew up in Alabama but has refugeed to San Francisco. What makes a writer a "Southern" and how do you fall in and/or fall outside of that definition?

MR: I now live in San Francisco, and before this I lived in New York. Though I always enjoy visiting family in Alabama, and have had such a warm reception from readers there (especially in Fairhope, home of the excellent book store Over the Transom), I must say that I feel very much at home in San Francisco. My forthcoming novel, Ocean Beach, is set partially in San Francisco and, again, partially in Alabama. Perhaps what makes me a Southern writer is that, even when I set out to write a novel about China or San Francisco, Alabama is all over it! You know, you can take the girl out of Alabama, but...

My favorite novel of all time is Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, which is about a "Southern" a novel as one can find. That said, I'm also very interested in Eastern European writers, and in the Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson, as well as the New York novelist and short story writer Richard Yates (Yates, of course, did his own time in the South--I was a student at the University of Alabama during the final years of his life, when he was teaching there).

I suppose what makes a writer Southern is an attention to landscape, perhaps an affinity for the often lyrical rhythms of ordinary speech, and, above all, a certain feel for the natural language of storytelling. Let's face it: Southerners have storytelling in their bones! No one in my family is a writer, but supper at my grandparents' house in Brookhaven, Mississippi, was always an occastion for fabulous, rich, and often tall tales, which were passed around among aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins and the like, as generously as the okra, butter beans, and cornbread. Even today, when I sit around with a bunch of friends in some oyster shack on Mobile Bay, with the sun shining and the beer flowing, I can always count on hearing a great story.

THANKS, MICHELLE.

Posted by joshilyn at 7:29 AM | Comments (7)