April 28, 2006

A Nose Poodle Deferred

I have a sacred paper calendar. If it doesn't make it from my computer, phone messages, or brain to the sacred paper calendar, I flake. Period. The paper calendar is the final authority that determines where I will be when to do what. It is the ultimate of ultimates. I say all this to say:

This morning, strictly of its own volition, my paper calendar leapt to its death. It hurled off its oppressive THUMBTACK and plummeted off my bulletin board to disappear behind a HUGE IMMOVABLE printer table. Ding Dong, the schedule is dead, and it took my date by date to do list with it. The part of me that is experiencing all the gorgeous lovely renewal of faith that spring and Easter brings began babbling that THIS was clearly a message from God, something about, "FORGET YOUR DEADLINES AND GO OUT AND ENJOY THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH TODAY!"

I called Karen and entreated her via her answering machine to join me in hurling off the keyboardian shackles and taking a lovely drive north on scenic highway 400.

Don't worry, I haven't grown a soul. You can keep yer mountain vistas---I personally feel that a great deal of earthly beauty can be found at the outlet malls of north Georgia. I am not really an AH! SUNSET! kind of girl, but I dearly love a sling back. ALSO, I SO need a purse. My poor abused everyday darling fell into CHUNKS yesterday, in retrospect a CLEAR sign that I need to go shopping!

I was feeling very PLEASED with the Lord after the great CALENDAR sign, so I was very suggestible and willing to seek further signs while ON the shopping trip. Signs that weren't even about purses, or even SHOES. Hopefully there would be a sign or three about buying pants. (I take it as a given that if a pair of pants make a person's butt look good, that is a MESSAGE.) Then I thought, if the calendar's demise WAS a sign, surely the Almighty is sending equally loud and portentous messages to my editor right now, telling HER my deadlines for these interviews, bios, updates and articles etc. I am 'sposed to be writing to help get the word out about my most beloved Between, Georgia should be PUSHED BACK, and so I sat, breathless, cloaked in faith, EXPECTING the telephone to ring.

Silence.

After a time, I heard a much quieter voice, one that might even be described as both still and small, mentioning that a trip to North Georgia to acquire COACH purses at the thrilling discounts, delightful as it might be, cannot really be counted as a spiritual journey . And then the phone rang and it was Karen, saying, NO, she can't go to the outlets with me, am I on CRACK, she has a DEADLINE, remember DEADLINES?

Oh. Right. Now I do.

Now I have to go crawl UNDER that behemoth of a table and fish out my calendar. I will no doubt get dust up my nose and maybe even swallow a bug. Bleh!

I SORROWFULLY TELL YOU: I still like dogs. I will tell you about the nose poodle NEXT time. I have too many deadlines this weekend, and clearly I am being cosmically FORCED to try to meet them.

I EVEN MORE SORROWFULLY TELL YOU: I cannot get my haiku judge on the phone. She is hiding. RESULTS as soon as I track her down. If only I had thought to dart her and tag her ear like they used to do on Wild Kingdom! Then I could turn on my little tracking device and IF, by CHANCE she was at the ANN TAYLOR LOFT OUTLET up on highway 400, THAT would be SO OBVIOUSLY a sign!!!! I bet she is there right this VERY second! Gahhh.

Posted by joshilyn at 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

April 26, 2006

For All the Dogs I've Loved Before

I started thinking about all-the-dogs because An Alert Reader sent Miss Snark a letter quoting something I said about openings in an earlier post (an even more Alert Commentor told me about it!) AND LET ME IMMEDIATELY digress.

DO NOT follow the above the link to Miss Snark's blog. Lord, I'll never see you again. I've tried to write this entry for two days now and for two days it's gone like this:
1) Open blog file
2) Read the part I already wrote ("I started thinking about all-the-dogs because An Alert Reader sent Miss Snark")
3) Realize I need to make the words "Miss Snark" a link.
4) Open a browser.
5) Hit Miss Snark in Book Marks to cut and paste the address out of the browser.
6) Read Snarkives for an hour.
7) Realize I have NO MORE TIME TO BLOG and am actually already behind schedule for the day.
8) Say a bad word.
9) Read the Snarkives for another half an hour anyway.

That site is like two of the three most popular types of crack --- to be perfectly clear, it's like the addictive drug kind of crack, and ALSO like the kind you fall into during an earthquake that sucks you permanently down and you are never seen again. It is NOT AT ALL like the kind of crack that only plumbers used to sport but that now seems to come standard on every teenaged girl in America and LORD I just want to go to the mall and let Maisy pick out a toy for her little friend's birthday extravaganza without having my eyes assaulted by a steady barrage of rump cleavage. IT IS NOT PRETTY. Standing up, even the most emaciated girls look like their hips are a globulous scoop of ice cream sticking out of the too-small dwindley sugar-cone of the pants. And when they sit and the pants GAPE open I think little bits of silt and plaster and passing buglets must be getting in there. Kids today! I tell you! In my day, cokes cost a nickel and I didn't keep catching glimpses of the half-patooties of total strangers. Good times. Good times.

Did I digress again? ANYWAY, It is an awesome site, ESPECIALLY if you are a writer. If you aren't a writer, it's probably less endlessly fascinating because you lose the NAVEL GAZE factor and you don't have that WOW THIS IS A SHOCKING AMOUNT OF USEFUL INFO ABOUT PUBLISHING COMING STRAIGHT AT ME WITH NO BS feeling that writers experience. It's so freakin' funny, I think even non writers might get sucked into the Snarkian Vortex.

ANYWAY.

I started thinking about all-the-dogs because An Alert Reader sent Miss Snark a letter quoting something I said about openings in an earlier post, and as you can see from above I spent WAY TOO MUCH time over there (considering all the various deadlines I have LOOMING up at me all fanged and slavering and eyeballing me like I was a meatball sub and they were one of the last three left on the island...)

I am not going to get through this to the dogs. I keep haring off on dreadful DIGRESSIVE trips to over-extended metaphor-land.

Anyway. I love Miss Snark, even though she would not love me back, I am realizing. Miss Snark would never ever be my agent because she has a "don't kill even fictional dogs" clause standard in her contract, and once, talking with my editor about the Wayne's Dog Buddy scene in gods in Alabama, my editor said, "HEY! What is it with you and dogs? Chapter four here in BETWEEN is not exactly a love poem to dogs either..." and looking at the mounting evidence it seems like I might have it IN for the canine set, and yet I quite like dogs. And dogs generally like me back.

Jamie Lee Curtis: Did you kill dogs in your book?
Me: Yes. But zay ver ALL BAHD!

NO dogs are being at ALL harmed in my WIP, I PROMISE although maybe I should PUT a dog in that gets obscenely pampered to make up for the dogs of my past. That's the ticket! I will stick in a nice, lovable mutt that gets snacks and wanders through rooms on his way to nap, pausing to be lovingly petted and exclaimed over, and I can work it out so all of the main characters mention a time or two how much they TRULY do enjoy the smell of a nice clean dog or how a dog is a handy jogging partner or how a dog once saved the life of their child and maybe one character can have a funny recurring thing where he speaks faux Elizabethan English to his dog and gives it rapturously poetical nicknames, like, he could say, "Come thou, beloved blamed-for-all-my-farts, and prithee taste the fine moist kibbles I have scattered for thy delectation." Or he could say, "Oh Butt Smeller to the Stars, how glorious for one such as thou to live in a time when so many butts hangeth out of the pants..."

I'm JUST SAYING.

Tomorrow I will tell you about all the dogs I've loved before, starting with The Nose Poodle and ending at Hobbes. AND I have told the Haiku contest judge to be decisive by tomorrow! SO. WE HAVE A LIMERICK WINNER, but he/she/it has to wait for the winners to be announced, SO sorry, because the haiku cannot seem to be wittled down from a final 4 that are so very perfect, each in their own ways, that it may come dowen to an eenie-meenie-miney-mo type solution.

ALSO re: Nose Poodle. Can't we forget the pink socks? HAVEN'T I the last 900 times when I have said "tomorrow I will tell you..." Actually ended up telling you within a few days? IS THERE NO LOVE? NO MERCY? NO CLEAN SLATED FORGIVENESS? I beg of thee, release the forever lost tale of the pink socks to the cosmos...

Posted by joshilyn at 8:05 PM | Comments (12)

April 24, 2006

Three Questions with Natalie R. Collins

In the comments on my last entry about the GODS IN ALABAMA WORLD TOUR, where the book, but not the stinkin' author, got to be all international and smoke opium and make out with ex-pats that look like a young Jim Morrison, Edgy Mama notes, "Hurrah for gods international tour! How is it in Dublin and Nairobi, but NOT on the bookshelf in my local bookstore in Asheville, NC? Which I complained about."

Because! The Paperback comes out right at the front of June here in America, so fewer and fewer stores will still have copies of the hardback, as they won't reorder the hardback when they sell out. I humbly suggest you get your first editions NOW. In fact, get two, they are small, and they make great presents, or doorstoppers, or decorative shelf fillers because Anne Twomey's cover is SO DARN GORGEOUS, and I also humbly suggest that they are nice to read. You can click any of those bookstore links under the picture of the cover to your right to get your very own copy, OR there is always that YELLOW BUTTON that takes you the The Alabama Booksmith's telephone number if you want a signed copy, you know. I'M JUST SAYING.

MEANWHILE speaking of paperbacks that are already completely available everywhere from B&N to Walmart to your fave indie to BAM, Natalie R. Collins' smokin' hot suspense novel, Wives and Sisters has busted out in mass market paperback.

HELLO! For under 7 bucks, you ask, agog.

I assure that it is indeed so. What ELSE could you desire to be fulfilled here in your earthly life? I ask.

Why an interview with Natalie herself, you say, and you look so DARN CUTE when you say it that I rush right out and grill the heck out of Natalie:

JJ: HOLA PAPERBACK WRITER! GRATZ on the paperback release of a novel that I know did RAWWWWWWther well in hardback...I also know that while completely fictional, the idea for WIVES AND SISTERS grew out of an event from your own childhood. Can you tell that story?

NC: When I was six-years-old, I was playing with some good friends and my older sister on some remote property high in the hills of Farmington, Utah, where the book is set, when we heard a gunshot. We thought it was my friend's brother, messing around, but when we finally located where the shot came from, we knew we were in trouble. Hiding behind some trees was a man with a rifle pointed at us.

He told us to take off our clothes, and if we wouldn't, he was going to kill us. My sister stood up to him, and said we would not take our clothes off. He shot up in the air several times, to show us how serious he was. We stood our ground, and he finally told us to run, or he would kill us. As we ran, I lost my shoes, and he fired several shots and I remember thinking how angry my parents would be about the lost shoes. We had to run about a mile, and we went to my house and told my dad what had happened. He didn't really believe us, and rather than call the police, he loaded us in the car, no matter how terrified we were, and then made us go back up there. A guy was walking out of the woods just as we got there, and my dad confronted him. He claimed innocence, but was carrying a gun. At that point, my dad finally did call the police. They questioned us, and told us we would have to go to court.

Then my parents were pressured to drop the charges, by the neighbors and church authorities, because the man had just "put his life back together" after some problems and gotten married. Anyway, that event really affected me. I can remember parts of it like it happened yesterday. It really colored how I looked at life and the people around me in my community as I was growing up. And it played a big part in my writing this book, as I heard story after story about how pressures from local religious leaders swayed justice.

wives-and-sisters-pb.jpg

JJ: You self-pubbed a novel before selling Wives and Sisters, and yet still managed to break into tradtional publishing, so you've kinda become the poster child for self- publishing, even though you're now with St. Martin's. Would you recommend self-publishing to writers who are serious about having a career? Why or why not?

NC: I'm not thrilled with my POD Poster Child status, to be honest, because the book I first sold to St. Martin's was NOT the one I self-pubbed. I had people say, "Well, she did it, so we can, too. Yea, POD! This is a POD success story." But they weren't looking at the specifics. My book, SISTERWIFE, hit the market right before Elizabeth Smart was recovered. I first published it with Booklocker, and then sold the rights to Zumaya, so it was no longer self-pubbed, but it WAS with a small POD publisher. Both books were published using POD technology, and YES, POD groupies, I am aware it is JUST a technology. My editor saw a press release about SISTERWIFE, and its similarities to the Smart case, and she asked to read something else of mine. This book, WIVES AND SISTERS, was one I'd refused to let go to the POD market. I just knew it had bigger possibilities, and so I was not willing to do it. That's the book she bought, and to this day, NO ONE will touch SISTERWIFE. In fact, I just sold its sequel, TWISTED SISTER, to Five Star, but still no one wants the original. I think it's a good, if not great, book, but it's out of print. And that's not really all that big of a success story. HOWEVER, I do have to admit that having the book out gave me an in to a publisher who was interested in something set in the Mormon world. I can't say I regret it, but I wouldn't repeat it.


JJ: Tell us about your new book---I hear that BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is excerpted in the back of the paperback of WIVES AND SISTERS----what's it about and when is it due out?

NC: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is excerpted in the back of WIVES AND SISTERS, and it's getting good responses from readers. It's a very different story than W&S, although still set in the Mormon arena. Jannie Fox has always been a little jealous of the regular, everyday, Mormon life her good friend Melissa leads, especially since Jannie has a secret that she is keeping from everyone around her. She is basically hiding from reality, because of something that happened to her years before, and yet she isn't hesitant to tilt at windmills for other people in her job as a domestic violence counselor. When Melissa disappears one sunny summer morning, everything changes for Jannie, as she, and a Salt Lake City police detective, unravel the few clues that are found regarding Melissa. Detective Colt Singer convinces Jannie it's time to live again, and face her demons, but she might not get the chance, because the real danger is lurking closer than she ever could have guessed.

And that's a brief summary.
Thanks for having me here, today, Joshilyn!

THANKS NAT for coming by to talk about the book. I should add that while Natalie's book got AWESOME reviews (I don't think she got a bad or even lukewarm review anywhere) I found several of them to be SPOILERY----very free with the plot points, some of these reviews. Yish! If i had read them BEFORE I read the book, I woudl have been TICKED. If you, like me, HATE even mild spoilers, I would stick to just the book itself until after you finish reading it. Here, I'll quote a non-spoiling bit of Kirkus here: "...it's a white-knuckles ride all the way. Expert depiction of a young woman's struggle with the oppressive "family values" of one kind of fundamentalism. Newcomer Collins is a talent to watch." All the reviews I have read have been WARM like that, except with a few spoilers. You have been warned!

OH Lastly I should tell you she got one of those MOVIE TRAILER book commercials done -- You can see it on her site but make sure you have the speakers on. The music makes it. Still TOYING with having one made or not. Not for Between, I fussed aroudn too long and blew my bankroll on foxes, but next book, maybe. What do you think of this one???

Posted by joshilyn at 6:47 PM | Comments (10)

April 23, 2006

Worth Two Thousand Words

HEY -- this is the last day to get your entries in to win a little fox doll figurine. Scroll down and get poetic, those comments close on MONDAY at around 6:30 PM EST.

I have been so hip deep in this novel I am writing that I am DREADFULLY behind on real life and church commitments and friends/social life and blog and pets and prepub work for Between that just considering my to do list makes me want to hole up like up like Greta Garbo, except without the part where I am an internationally adored A list movie super star. Does it count if you hole up and no one cares? If a tree holes up in the woods...well. I suppose most trees do. Never mind.

ANYWAY, in lieu of whining, I decided to post a couple of INTERNATIONALLY THRILLING pictures that have gathered in a file called "Things I should blog about." And then I can delete the picture files from my hard drive and IF I am clever I can put "clean old files off hard drive" on my monster to do list, and THEN I will have an item to check off and that, my friends, is very satisfying. The way I love lists verges on the unholy. Sometimes? When lists see me coming? I suspect them of rustling uneasily and whispering "BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!" to each other.

SO, let's see what we have here, eh?

Anne Glamore (the blogess behind Tiny Kingdom sent me this shot of my book slumming on a whole another continent....

godsinAfrica.jpeg

She said, "Just thought you'd get a kick of seeing this picture of your book. I took it at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi-- it was in the gift shop.
Most of the other books were about the Maasai Mara and Serengeti. It took us 46 hours to get back from Nairobi, so your book is really at
the other end of the world!"

I've never been to Nairobi, and there goes gods in Alabama, jetsetting about like Paris Hilton while I am stuck here like last week's Nicole.... But it didn't stop there.

godsindublin.jpeg

The fetching lass modeling the book is my sister-in-law's sister's daughter which makes her.... My second niece-in-law twice removed? Anyway, she's in a bookstore in DUBLIN. And so is my novel. DUBLIN! In IRELAND, origin of AT LEAST 95% of my genetic make-up. But have I ever been? No. AND YET! My jet-setting trampy BOOK is there, macking on red-headed boys and discovering dark beer.

I'll be sulking in my room if you need me....I want to be alone...

Posted by joshilyn at 6:14 PM | Comments (8)

April 21, 2006

B4B Winners!

O my lovely Internets -- I have neglected you this week. I have been in and out of town and have many other good but boring excuses, and one good but not boring excuse which is this: I cut off a snake's head and had an epiphanym, SO I have been UNable to pull my nose out of my WIP for long enough to blog. Next week, I am sure I will be a better person who manages her time more frugally. Hey, it could happen.

MEANWHILE, E. Lockhart, author of Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything and this months Blogging for Books judge has come through! Here's E:

I loved reading these entries. Blogging is so amazing. As Through These Glasses wrote, it's really fascinating to read a snippet of someone else's life. I was also so impressed by the range of responses to your prompt! Me, I hear "Fly on the Wall" and immediately zoom into the locker room. These guys were highly emotional, nostalgic, thought-provoking and funny -- but never ever dirty. They all must be emotional adults or something.

So THANK YOU for asking me to be a judge.

Anyway, the winner is:

The Clutter Museum for her stingingly accurate descriptions of human frailties and the way they can transform into virtues. And it's a very satisfying romance into the bargain. Woohoo Clutter!

The runner-ups are Cynical Optimism, who just made me laugh and whose writing was so full of ACTION. I love that she shot him in the butt!

And Inside My Head , whose entry was unstructured but hung together through the powerful force of family connections, and really made me think about our relationship to the past.


I will be thrilled to send Ms. Clutter Museum a copy of Fly on the Wall, with only the caveat that I am on a book tour! I am writing this from a messy hotel room in Dayton Ohio, and before the day is out I will be in Cleveland and Washington DC. So my mailing abilities are severely impeded until the 28th, but I have written it in my calendar for that day -- Mail out Fly on the Wall for Blogging for Books. And so it will officially happen as soon as I get home.

Best,
E

PEE! ESS! CLUTTER -- Your blog does not allow me to comment and you have not posted an e-mail addy i can find anywhere. Please e-mail me a snail addy so I can get your prize to you. TYHANKS and BIG CONGRATS! Joshilyn

Posted by joshilyn at 8:01 PM | Comments (7)

April 20, 2006

Farewell and Adieu...

...To ye fair Spanish newties
Farewell and adieu
To ye newties of Spain!

The nice thing about pets that you pull out of the yard is that, when you are TIRED of them, you can put them right back out in the yard. No harm no foul to the environment or even the pets. N EWSFLASH: Newts are kinda....boring. Now when they are LARVAE they are educational and interesting. They grow. They change colors. Their little larval legs develop and their tails change from flippery swim tails to long lizardy tails and they develop racing stripes. Alas, once the stripes come in, they spend 23 hours and 57 minutes every day sitting. under. logs. They don't even TWITCH.

Just looking at them sitting under logs with a tail bit sticking out here, a little newtly foot there, completely UNTWITCHING, makes my leg go to sleep in sympathy for THEIR umoving legs that are stuffed under logs. Then the rest of me goes to sleep out of sheer boredom. I like my pets a little more interactive and a little less...plastic-ish. SO.

We took the mini-log and the rocks from the aquarium and put them in the same pattern in the newt pond behind our house and allowed Fig, Spotty and Daisy Flower to roam free and breed or, more likely, sit under that same dern mini-log until old age claims them. (Posey had already and premptively gone to meet her maker for reasons that we could not assess without an autopsy. We couldn't really PERFORM an autopsy because the vast majority of Posey's mortal remains ended up inside Fig and Spotty. Apparently, the three minutes a day not spent log-sitting are squandered on cannibalism.)

The kids were sad for about 30 seconds untril I told them they could have a dog instead. Then they wanted to pitch the Newts down the toilet so we could head to Pet Smart's Saturday Animal Shelter sponsored adoption day FASTER.

Scott: We are not getting a dog.
*everyone looks crestfallen*
Scott: Okay, you can get a dog.
*everyone looks delighted*
Scott: As long as it never, never poops.
*everyone looks crestfallen*
Scott: It shouldn't have a digestive tract at all, really.

His argument was that HE would end up sole pooper scooper, no matter how many protestations of good faith promised pooper-scooping Sam and I faithfully wrote in blood for him PRE-dog. Sam promised anyway but I didn't even try. I was already kinda thinking in my head that dog poo removal, much like grilling meat and hauling furniture back and forth across the den until it "looks right", is a manly art.

So we went to Pet Smart ANYWAY to look at the shelter animals, and they had TWO houndly darlings that REALLY appealed to me, one a Basset-Beagle mix and one a Beagle-no-freaking-idea cross.

Me: *modeling both dogs for Scott* Which one would you like?
Scott: Whichever one has no butt-hole.

Alas, they both came rear-ily equipped with what were, presumably, working butt-holes, although I did try the argument that the one on the Bassett-y looking fellow MIGHT be purely decorative. Scott did not buy it. He did, however, buy everyone under 4 feet tall a GERBIL, so now we have Gerbils in the gaping hole where the newts used to sit. And sit. And sit. And sit.

Hotshot (Sam's) and Snickers (Maisy's) are messy and they run the VERY! LOUD! WHEEL! until I think about lifting my massively obese cat (who is WAY too gravity-bound and enormous to make the leap himself) up 4 feet onto the counter and allowing nature to take it's course in the form of a gerbil abbatoir.

NO, I am kidding. I quite like the little blighters. They have an inordinate affection for toilet paper rolls and whenever I open the top grill and lower one down to them, they stand up on their little back feetses and REEEEEEEEEEEACH up to grab it. Everytime I come around, they run to the hatch see what delightful thing I might have brought them, and respond with equal glee to the first and fortieth toilet paper roll of the day. They can take one out with their mighty front fangs in about 14 minutes. So goodbye amphibians, hello rodents----I am working my way up the pet evolutionary scale, heading toward dog with a bullet.

BY THE WAY, I am ADORING the poetry contest entries! And also By the way, I will post E. Lockhart's pick of B4B winners TOMORROW! HUZZAH!

Posted by joshilyn at 8:10 AM | Comments (19)

April 17, 2006

My Brother is Cool, and You Can Win the Proof

HEATHER! IT IS STILL MONDAY! LOOK I AM ON TIME! This will never happen again.

BETWEEN, GEORGIA looks at identity and nature v/s nurture. My main character, Nonny, is the biological child of the Crabtree family, but is stolen and raised by the Frett family. Naturally she is at the center of a war that breaks out between the two. Nonny’s mother, Stacia Frett, is an artist, a doll-maker. Stacia has Ushers syndrome, a genetic condition that causes profound deafness from birth and an eventual loss of sight. Folks with type one Ushers are often completely blind before they turn fifty, if not earlier. Here's Nonny, talking about the last series of animal-headed dolls in Victorian dress that Stacia makes before her eyesight deteriorates too much to allow her to work in porcelain:

...the animal dolls had all been modeled on the people in my mother's life. People from Between. Mama had done herself as a brown bear, and I could see Crabtrees in the thin-faced red foxes. One little fox girl stood beside the carousel, and from beneath her cherry red skirts, brown bear paws peeped out, a quiet love letter from my mother to me.

Much like Stacia, my brother Bobby Jackson makes his living as an artist, sculpting the greens for toys and figurines, and he sculpted Nonny’s totem for me. He caught Nonny’s bravery, her desire to be loved, her good, good heart, and the way she hesitates, hopeful but cautious, as if she is standing on the brink of something. He sculpted her exactly as I believe her mother sees her, and I love the MASSIVE bear paws peeking out from under.... Here is the original sculpture, called a green, because of the color of the compound he works with:

Foxgreen-close.jpg

Here's a more distant shot, mostly so you can see all the scattered skeletons of my brother's other minatures in progress sprinkled all over his disgustingly messy offfice, which is, sadly, better organized than MINE:

Foxgreen-far.jpg

I was so taken with the figure that I hired a mold maker and a casting company and had a small lot of them made up. The pewter finish had been brushed so she is nicely highlighted, but she doesn't take good pictures. The light glares off her and you can see the detail in photographs better in the green. But she's darling in metal, trust me. I sent them out to booksellers and suchlike folks who were so good to me when gods in Alabama came out, as a thank you, but I kept a little pod of them for myself, including a few to give out here. TRA LA!

SO, I have two up for grabs this time. And two contests to win them by. You can enter one, or you can enter both, but you can't WIN both, even if both your poems are the very bestest. If that makes sense. It makes sense to me, so don't worry, enter both as many times as you like, I'll sort it out with the judges if sorting is needed so no one wins both.

Below this is an entry called YOUR HAIKU HERE. If you want to enter the HAIKU contest, put a HAIKU that you yourself have made up in your own mind in the comments beneath THAT entry. The object of a Haiku is to capture a single, simple image.

Under that, still farther down, is an entry called, YOUR LIMERICKS HERE. Please place your own original limericks there. The object of a limerick is to be amusing and perhaps scatalogical. Please do not include any lines that end in "Nantucket" or "Brother clucking" and various rhyming combos that go with such phrases, as I prefer to keep FTK rated PG 13. You can skate near the edge of PG 16 if absolutely VITAL. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, and if you do not, then I am charmed by the purity of your adorable mind, and I suspect that you are ten years old and should therefore leave this blog immediately---you'll have a nice time here.

RULES:
Haiku put in the wrong place don't count.
Limericks put in the wrong place don't count.
Any NON ENTRY comments placed in the slots for entering will be cruelly removed and a squad of specially trained snotty thirteen year old girls will be deployed to appear on the doorstep of offenders and make SCOFFING noises at them.
You can comment beneath this entry about anything you like except please do not tell me where I can get quality chinese cialis soft tabs. Thanks.
Due to Cialis soft-tab spam, commments automatically close ONE WEEK after an entry is posted, so you have one week from the time of posting to get your entry in.
If you already HAVE a fox doll because you are a dear friend of mine or a relation or a bookseller I love or you won an earlier contest (I have sent 2 others out under the guise of SOMETHING SECRET) then don't enter please. BUT! PLEASE! Feel free to post your own haiku or limericks under THIS entry, NOT THE CONTEST ENTRY, THIS ONE, just for fun.

Both contests will be judged by people who are NOT ME, because I know and love some people who may want to enter, and it would not be fair. A VERY talented smartipants woman in my writing group has agreed to judge the Haiku, and my drinking buddy and beerhall-floozy-in-a-former-life Karen Abbott (who is writing a book for Random House that's all ABOUT floozies in Chicago at the turn of the century, ackshully) will probably agree to judge the limericks just as soon as ever I get her on the phone. SO. If you lose, blame THEM. I would have picked YOURS. I am QUITE SURE it was best.

Just for fun, here is a picture of one of the foxes that I had painted by an artist named Shubert. No, not my cat. A different one. It was a present for my amazingly cool editor, and I think it's worth looking at...

FoxGirl-paintedfront.jpg

FoxGirl-paintedback.jpg

Okay -- you can comment HERE about anything, including what a cool brother I have *grin* Contest entries go in the posts BELOW. :)

Posted by joshilyn at 6:36 PM | Comments (18)

YOUR HAIKU HERE

Please put your entry Haiku in the comments beneath this entry.

So our guest judges will have an easy time, please don't put NON entry comments or limericks here.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:35 PM | Comments (36)

YOUR LIMERICKS HERE


Please put your entry Limericks in the comments beneath this entry.

So our guest judges will have an easy time, please don't put NON entry comments or Haiku here.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:34 PM | Comments (18)

YOUR SONNETS ABOUT J.D. HERE

Please put Shakesperian sonnets on the subject of Johnny Depp's physical perfection here. Be sure to make liberal use of risque puns and use figurative language to imply extreme naughtiness. Also, link to pictures.

It's not a contest or anything. I would just LIKE you to.

Posted by joshilyn at 6:30 PM | Comments (7)

April 15, 2006

B4B Finalists, A Heartfelt Apology-Slash-Threat, and a Crouton Left Over from Picture Salad

I have heard from your special guest blogger, Autumn (a former B4B finalist who pens Perfection on a Curve.) Here is what she had to say:

"There were so many good entries. It was a joy to read them. Picking just seven was hard!!!

In no particular order:

Micki Peluso, guest blogging on Edgy Mama
Inside My Head
Crunchy Granola
The Clutter Museum
Through These Glasses
RandomOutpourings from my Mixed Up Mind
Cynical Optimism


Thanks for letting participate!! It was a blast reading all the entries, and I can't wait to see who wins!"

Thanks Autumn.

The APOLOGY: I haven't come up with a contest yet for my brother's YET TO BE REVEALED supah secret delightful artwork. I am at my mom and dad's house for Easter----I will KNOW on MONDAY, swearsies. Maybe something with HAIKU? I am threatening you with HAIKU unless you come up with a better idea in the comments. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The CROUTON: Oh Internets! LOOKIT! Publisher's Weekly puts out a daily e-news-letter called PW Daily, and they have a feature called PIC OF THE DAY. Yesterday, It was me. I just about fell back in it, I was so tickled. It is sad that I have no ARMS in this photo, but at least I have hands that jut out of my body from strange and wonderful places. AH THE PERILS OF A BLACK SWEATER! Never the less it spawned one of those "GEPETTO! I am a REAL BOY!" waves of thrilled disbelief that this is my life, and it is the very exact one I wanted when I stood pressing my nose against the windows of the Life Store.

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Caption from PWD: Georgia on Her Mind
Novelist Joshilyn Jackson dropped by Bookspan's Manhattan offices to tape a video interview and discuss her new novel, Between, Georgia (Warner). Pictured (l. to r.) are Beth Goehring, editor-in-chief of the Literary Guild; Jackson; and Sharon Fantera, editorial director, Doubleday Book Club.

PS: They were SO cool to me there at Bookspan. Put me so at ease I got through a 20 minute long ON CAMERA interview without even once puking. SO! We like them. YAY, THEM! GO YE FORTH and join a book club in celebration! Me, I'll be hunting eggs and rabbitses with my little Easter people.

Posted by joshilyn at 8:06 AM | Comments (13)

April 13, 2006

Picture Salad, LEADING UP TO TOMORROW'S NEW CONTEST FOR DELIGHTFUL PRIZES LA LA!

Thank you for the comments. It's weird -- most of my blog entries are just whatever is wandering through my scattered brain at the moment, but sometimes the stuff I call "my real writing" escapes and sneaks in here, and that happened with the last entry. It felt odd to have something that felt close to me the way my fiction does so IMMEDIATELY out there. Thanks for saying reassuring things and for having insights and for responding when I stuck myself out there in a way I generally do not. Now I am all toe-scrubby and shy. SO! LOOK OVER THERE! SOMETHING SHINY!

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This is me in the box where I crouched like a feral rodent for four days straight, reading the audio book version of BETWEEN, GEORGIA. I look drunk and possibly insane in this shot, so let us kindly assume I am reading one of Ona Crabtree's lines. Did you know I stole the name ONA from my teeny tiny poodle-headed gramma? She died while I was writing Between, and in a crazy memorium, I named this vicious pit-bull of an alchoholic character after her.

My gramma liked VERY much to be the center of attention---I think she would have been charmed and amused to have her name in the book, even pasted on an evil whack-job like the Crabtree Matriarch. Mercifully, Ona Jackson and the character of Ona Crabtree have very little in common. Ona Jackson was tiny and dark and and a more-flies-with-honey-than-vinegar sort. Ona Crabtree believes you get more flies with a shotgun. Also, my grandmother was a strict teetotaller.

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Now here I am looking moonfaced and lobotomized with BOB, the producer/director of the audiobook. He's cool, and I include the pic because HE looks nice in it. Bob had never had a Muffeletta!!!! I was like, SWEET MERCIFUL LORD what do they FEED you out there in Los Angeles?. I think it must be pretty much wall to wall Sushi with Tofutti Dreamsicles for dessert. If YOU have never had a Muffuletta, please, rectify that as soon as ever you can manage it.

NOW here is something cool...as you may recall, my brother makes his living as a sculptor. We're very close, and I have always wanted to find a project we could do together. In fact, a long long time ago, LONGLONG, I think back when Sam was VERY new, in fact, my agent shopped a children's book series I was working on with co-author Lily James and my brother as the illustrator. It was, please excuse me, an awesome project. Mr Bungaloo and the Soup Mines. Mr. Bungaloo and the Well Built City of Sand and Cheese. It employed that sort of STIFF VICTORIAN prose that was completely out and no one liked back then, but that now the glorious Lemony Snicket, may he live forever has practically reinvented and certainly revitalized, but it was for the picture book crowd.

My brother did AMAZING sample drawings, but they were very PEN AND INKY. In some ways they reminded me of John Tenniel's original illustrations for Alice and Wonderland

Alas, this was more than ten years ago. The two sample color plates weer stored on an old comp of his that DIED A HORRID death, but he had the paper copies of the original pen and ink prelim sketches and I had him scan them and send them to me.

The project didn't fly...Here's the reasons I think it was a no go:

1) It's harder to sell a writer/illustrator package than just a writer. Houses like to use their own illustrators.

2) That freakin RAINBOW FISH phenom was still happening. First of all---I hate that fish. I hate the whole idea. I mean, I guess you can read it as a book about sharing and sharing is good. Sharing is important. Whatever. BUT. This isn't about OBJECTS -- this is the FISH HIMSELF. Here we have a fish who is different and special, and so everyone hates him, and the solution is dumb himself down? To Conform? This poor fish has to tear CHUNKS of his OWN FLESH off and let everyone be just like him? CREEEEEEEEPY. Shades of Vonnegut. BUT! It was very en vogue, so the writing was off.

Mr. Bungaloo is kindly and virtuous and upright and into having a WORK ETHIC and sticking to his own moral center. NOT a conformist. He has a horrid little sociopathic dog named HORACE as a foil. Horace is Pure Id, the incarnation of willful fulfillment of one's immediate desires. Mr. Bungaloo loves him even though Horace is often Very Very Naughty Indeed. It was not a very I'm okay, you're okay touchy feely we're alike Rainbow Fish sort of book, and stiff victorian writing was exactly what the market hated that day. Look, here is Mr. Bungaloo and Horace. POOR HORACE, his awful naughtiness got him into trouble -- he eventually had to be decanted in the dreadful machinery of the Soup Mines where Mr. Bungloo works. You should have seen this after Bobby did all the colors and shading ---amazing. The sketch can give you an idea though.

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3) The illustrations missed the market, too. Everything picture book was all about big blowsy watercolors and torn paper collages. Bobby did the exact opposite with his skritchy detailed pen and inks. LOOKIT! I alos still have the prelim "what does Horace LOOK LIKE" sketch. I remember watching Bobby draw several Horaces while I sat on the sofa and said "Make him Grumpier! Make him SQUANCHIER! OH YES! THAT IS HIM! THAT IS HORACE! LOOK LOOK I LOVE HIS SPRONCY EYEBROWS I NEVER THOUGH HE WOULD HAVE BIG MUSTACHES BUT OF COURSE HE MUST! HE IS PERFECT!"

Look at his FEET. I LOVE the feet.

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I told those stories to Sam back in the day, and Maisy is four now. I should drag them back out for bedtime if i can find them. We wrote them 4 computers ago, at least.

ANYWAY, that was a HUGE digression, but I had the drawings and I think my brother is cool. So I WILLFULLY digressed. And there was a point, which is often not the case with my digressions, so let's celebrate our moments as we find them. AND THE POINT, Oh My Best Beloveds, the point is this:

I FINALLY got to work with my brother on a project, and it was secret, and it was related to BETWEEN!!

He did something for me---something COOL, and you can win a piece of it, as soon as I think of a good contest, which I will do LATE|R TODAY I hope and maybe even post tomorrow. This was that secret thing I have mentioned several times....YOU! WILL! LIKE! IT!

Any contest suggestions? I guess I can always do a bland old hat drawing, but if you have a BETTER idea I am SO game to hear it.

Posted by joshilyn at 1:00 PM | Comments (21)

April 11, 2006

The Terrible Thing With A Snake (Part 2 of Yesterday's Squall)

The following entry is not a good bedtime story for children. I will be somehwat less horrifying tomorrow. Pinky Swear.

So as you may recall from yesterday's blog, I decided to skip being mentally ill and simply coast along not working and not worrying about the fact that I was not working until the internal knot I always wind myself into 1/3-1/2way through a book unwound itself and I felt like writing again. I decided I did not HAVE to be unendurable for one month out of every 2 years. I would write when I was ready, whenever that might be, without making everyone who had to interact with me SORRY about it just because I wasn't working. HEH.

My friend Karen Abbott has been on a long research trip to Chicago and NYC and Philly. She would call me on her way to the library and say, ARE YOU WORKING? And she would say it in the frenzied freaked out voice of a girl with a hard, contractual deadline, and I would say, "Nah. I am playing World of Warcraft." And there would be this BOGGLED silence for moment and then she would say, "So, are you going to work later then?" and I would say "Work on what?" and listen to the boggled silence some more. It was kinda fun, except I had little internal hiccups about how LONG it was taking me to ZEN my placid way back into the book. On the other hand, my family and I were certainly enjoying the part where I wasn't two clicks away from screaming batcrap. That part was good.

Talking to Karen and Lily and Mir, I would say "I certainly am not writing any books." And then I would muse, "I wonder if the TIME OFF isn't what makes the book go? What if the freak-out itself is an essential part of my process, and as long as I stand here cud chewing I will never write again." And they would assure me that probably this was not so, and I would amble on, completely not working. At all.

So, flash forward to Thursday. Picture me, not working. Also not freaking out.

Me: KIDS! We must go to Kroger and buy nutritious fruits and verdant greens!
Sam: Why do you talk like that?
Me: Run outside and staple youselves into your carseats while I find my keys!
Sam: Mom we don't literally STAPLE ourselves---
Me: And nine year olds don't say LITERALLY, but there you have it. GO GO GO!

Off they go, and just as I find my keys, I hear the shrieking of the damned coming from my front yard and then Sam bursts back in through the door, Maisy hard on his heels.
Sam: MOM! MOM! There's a dead snake in our driveway and I think he is alive!
Me: ... What?
Sam: There is a dead snake! Alive in our driveway!

OOOOOOkay.
I go outside with my distraught children following me, and there he is. A dead snake. Alive in our driveway. He is brown and small and charming, a garden snake, probably a foot long if you stretched him out. He is very unhappy. His mouth opens and closes. It opens too wide because he is unhinging it and yawping it open and then closing it again as if he is yawning or imagining that he must now swallow a whole possum and seeing if he can get his mouth to open enough. His eyes are bright and alien and perfectly round. Right at the second half of him, a cat has gotten to him and torn big pieces of him out and some stringy guts and small organs trail away and the meat of him has been somewhat eaten. This snake is beyond all hope of shoebox veterinary medicine and repair, but this snake is still alive. We look at it and my kids are trying to decide how much to panic so I panic a lot less externally than I am panicking internally.

Me (Calm voice): Oh, poor snake. Go on in the house. Don't touch him. It's fine. He is fine. Mommy will handle it.

I don't remember a lot of the next parts clearly. There was some confusion about where they would go because Sam wanted to go get in the car and I didn't want them in the car to see what I would do next and then a bee came and they had to scream and beat the air and run in circles about that and at least forty agonizing seconds that must have been very long in snake time passed before I got them hustled into the house. I told them to go down to watch TV in the basement recroom because it has no windows.

I called Scott on my cell and I think that's when I started screaming. I screamed: HOW CAN I KILL A BAD HURT SNAKE IN PIECES IN THE DRIVEWAY?
He was in a meeting, so he said, "I'm going to need to step out for a minute," to everyone there and then told me to open the garage. He said, "Do you need me to come and home and...fix the snake."
And I screamed back, NO THIS SNAKE IS VERY SAD HE CAN'T WAIT FOR YOU I HAVE TO FIX HIM.

I pushed the garage button in the car and he told me where the shovel was and then I went back out and then got very close and I personally hit the snake in the neck with the edge of the shovel a lot of times until his head came off. But still he was opening that mouth up wide at me and closing it, so I asked Scott about it, surprised to find that when I tried to talk I was still screaming. IS HE DEAD I HIT HIM UNTIL HIS HEAD CAME OFF HOW CAN HE STILL BE LOOKING AT ME AND HIS MOUTH IS OPENING UP AND THEN HE CLOSES IT.

He was looking at me too, and his eyes were blank and bland, as perfectly round as plastic beads.
Scott's voice was very gentle as said, "His head is off, so he is dead. Things with their heads off are dead. It is only nerves twitching."
I let him go back to his meeting.

I scooped all of the little snake up with the shovel and carried him back to the woods behind out house. I set him down in the leaves there so that something hungry could find him and eat him instead of eating a different still-alive little snake that probably had business elsewhere. Then I leaned the shovel against a tree and stood back there where my children couldn't see me and I cried until I threw up because I've never done anything like that before, and look, I'm a country girl. I'm not sentimental. I've watched my daddy take the head off a cottonmouth and never blinked, but I had never killed something nice, something I have fondness for, by myself with my two hands looking in its eyes. And I like those small brown charmers in my garden.

After I was finished throwing up, I stood looking at the snake and then I understood my book.

Look, I'm never going to win the Pulitzer---The books I write are driven by character, not some underlying brilliant theme, and they don't have any sort of international scope. They have a strong sense of place and are often funny and suspenseful because that's my favorite kind of book to read. I write to entertain myself, primarily, and I am more pleased than I can say when other people read my stories and find that they are entertained too. It's one of the greatest pleasures in my life. But under the keeping myself entertained, I also write to figure things out. Not how the world works, or the nature of man or God or evil -- that's Pulitzer stuff and I don't frankly know. It's smaller than that. I'm smaller than that. It's much more personal. I write to understand, if not how this world works, then how I can work in this world. I write about things that are important to me, and if you like levels in a book, they are there for you. You can take 'em and have a great book club discussion, or you can leave 'em where they lay quietly under plot and character and go read on a beach with a HUGE flaming pineapple cocktail, and I would very much like to join you.

Underneath the black comedy and the mystery, gods in Alabama was a book about my personal relationship with redemption. Between, Georgia, is my weird blend of humor and violence layered over a family drama, but I was writing about identity, nature v/s nurture, trying to define motherhood for myself and trying to understand the dual nature of my own extended family. This book I am writing now, one of the underneath threads is my tangled relationship with time. Time upsets me, the way it moves hideously, inexorably forward and, as my favorite redneck professor used to say, "Done's done done, baby." This snake....he was done. He couldn't be fixed or changed, and it was what it was. I was upset less because of the snake (I didn't know him very well) and more because I was powerless. The cat had come and gone, and the snake was over. All I could do was to try and choose what was best and kindest to do, and it was an ugly, ugly, awful thing, but it was also right.

When I was standing back in the woods and he was dead in the leaves, the way through the book I had been assiduously not working on began to make sense to me. I knew what would happen next, because I could finally see what my character would have to do. I went inside. I sat down at my keyboard and I let her do it. I spent all weekend letting her. I've written almost 10,000 new words in the last three days which is why I haven't blogged. And If I don't see my way clear to the end yet (and I don't), at least I have a righteous path that's lighting up through the middle.

Now that I seem to be on track, I'm wondering about process. Scott is accusing me of "growing as a person," which is one of those catch-phrasey mental health terms that drives me up the wall, and he says it with such a smarmy, hopeful look on his face that it makes me laugh every time.
"I am not," I say to him, I say to you, "not not not growing as a person."
He looks skeptical. At least one of you does, too. I think maybe that's Amy-go.
"We don't do that here," I tell him and Amy-go, and you, if you need telling. "It's trashy. All we do here is try to be kinder next time, every time."
There's always room in the world, I think, for being kinder, even if you have to do it with a shovel.

But I would like figure out what caused me to go back to work. Is puking in the woods a legitimate epiphany? Was it simply a matter of waiting until things finished stewpotting on my brain's back burner, and I would have seen the answer in any image or moment containing something that had moved in time past my ability to control its outcome? Or was it only that I stood in the yard and wailed until I was sick? DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO WAIL UNTIL I AM SICK? Have mercy, that's SO dumb, but maybe I can dress it up and call it cartharsis and be all "puking over dead snakes is SO classic Greek theatre." You'd buy that, right? If I said it with conviction? Bah. Me neither.

Snakes aside, it seems now barely possible that when I hit the wall again (and I will), that if I wait, if I am calm (for me) and patient (for me), the way over or through or around the wall will come, hopefully next time in a form that doesn't require violence. We'll see.

Posted by joshilyn at 9:14 AM | Comments (26)

April 10, 2006

The Process of Being Mentally Ill, Part One

Have I told you the thing about how every time I write a novel (and this is the fifth time I have done this, so pernicious novel-writing is beginning to be a habitual thing with me) I have to have a complete nervous breakdown?

Yeah, about 1/3rd to 1/2 of the way in, I suddenly realize I am bad, and stupid, and evil, and as much as I love my characters I am too worthless to possibly get them to go sit on a page and LIVE and BE NIFTY they do in my head and WHAT IS UP with this PLOT because what I thought would happen has NOT happened and instead I let my mental people do haring off and perpetrate completely other ideas and so now that I am stuck they decide they to have no idea where they should go or what they should do, and I fume and flail around snarking for a couple of weeks, just stomp around suffer and suchlike, and then after 10 - 30 days of grinding out bad rewrites of a single bad scene, I culminate in a big huge screaming weep.

I call everyone I know and brainstorm for a new career path, and pule about how I am going to try out for Project Runway because even though I can't sew a LICK and I put outfits together by going to Ann Taylor and pointing at a mannequin that I think doesn't look too matchy-matchy and yet is still pretty and saying, "Give me that please" and then once it's in a bag I go to the SHOE STORE which is the only part of the whole process I care about anyway....BUT WHO CARES because Tim Gunn NEEDS me and fashion is CLEARLY my life and my calling and I know this because it dern well sure is NOT writing. Or I could be a zookeeper! Or a nun! Or a business woman in a power suit who ruthlessly downsizes weeping middle management!

Once everyone I know has patiently explained to me that these are not actually viable career paths for a disorganized married crazy fashion-sense-free mother who is actually kinda SCARED of lions, I lie on my bed and scream to the heavens and cry WHY WHY WHY and generally act like a 2 year old on crack, and a spoiled one at that. This part wastes another day or so. Then I get up and write the rest of the book.

Yeah, well, this time, here on book five, I decided to, you know, maybe not do that.

I quit writing right before I went to New York. Just....stopped. I thougth maybe I was not writing because I was out of town, but no. I quit. Hacked 10K out of the book, and left it there to bleed to death with one quarter of itself removed. When I got home it was dead as a congealed spill of paint to me, and I decided to not care. Decided I would put a new 10K back in when I was good and freakin' ready THANKS MUCH. Because EVEN THOUGH it was clearly time to have a nervous breakdown and make everyone who loved me miserable, and THIS TIME, I decided to opt out.

I remember when I was writing Between, Georgia, this point came about one third of the way into the book, outside a hospital room where my main character runs slap dab into her awful genetic legacy personified, and even then I knew it really OUGHT to be a turning point. The scene would have to rachet the tension up a good ten clicks and make several relationships in all their tangley ugliness become horrifyingly clear. And instead, I wrote FORTY PAGES of this one scene, over and over, read it to my writing group I think three times....it gave me HELL. And I went mental and quit writing and vowed I would be a world class aviatrix or some such twaddle and lay around and flopped and after the 14th TOTAL rewrite of this scene, I went into the final phase (full panic alert mode) and called my friend Lily.

ME: *WAIL* I CANNOT GO ON.
Her: Oh. Are we here now?
Me: *actually, shockingly listening* What? Where?
Her: The part 1/3rd to 1/2 of the way in where we have this conversation about how you can't go on an d it makes no sense and there is no way to resolve this this or that blah blah and we do this for a couple of hours and then you go write the book.
Me: I do that?
Her: Every book.
Me: Do you tell me I do this every book?
Her: Every book.
Me: SO not only have we had the conversation where I say I can't do this anymore, but we have ALSO had the conversation where you say I always say this?
Her: This is the fourth time, yes, and to make you do the math I will ask you, How many books have you written?
Me: This is the fourth.....And we really have these two conversations every time.
Her: Well the first time we didn;t have the conversation about how we have had the first conversation but otherwise yes.
Me: I have no memory of this.
Her: Mine is very very crystaline clear.
Me. Huh. Interesting.

SO this time, I decided to simply NOT. I went to New York. And then I came home. And I did not snark at my family or worry. I also did not, in fact, write. I have basically been playing World of Warcraft for a couple of weeks and really concentrating on important MISSIONS, like getting my foot skin looking supple and moisterized because sandal weather is coming and working out and cooking nutritious meals for a sit down family dinner every night and going around being quietly pleased instead of shaking with horror and screaming. I have lost 4 pounds of the eternal five I always gain and lose and the big THRILL moment for the last fortnight has been finding the perfect shade of hot pink toe polish to match my wedgie sandals with the daisies on the side. My life has been chewing its cud in a placid meadow. My life is a cow.

Then The Terrible Thing With A Snake happened. Which I will tell you about tomorrow, though it is very terrible, and you may not want to hear it. OUT OF TIME.

DO NOT FORGET that MIDNIGHT your time tonight is the deadline to enter BLOGGING FOR BOOKS!

Your special guest blogger this month is Autumn, a former B4B finalist who pens Perfection on a Curve. She will narrow the entries down to seven.

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If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author E. Lockhart, whose new YA book, Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything tells the story of a girl named Gretchen who gets to BE a fly on thew wall...in the boys locker room. It's Kafkarriffic!

Posted by joshilyn at 7:19 AM | Comments (17)

April 6, 2006

I Have No Title to Help this Hang Together. It's a Mess.

EVEN MORE OF YOU have KINDLY linked to the Blogging for Books contest. I weep at your goodness and mercy, and stand with you to tut-tut at those non-linkers to our left. They clearly have no starz on tharz.

The Lunestra commercials BOTHER me. To IMMEDIATELY digress: ALL drug commercials bother me because I don't think prescription meds should RUN commercials that are all about convincing people to self diagnose for restless leg syndrome and acid reflux and lupus and ASK YOUR DOCTOR, not about YOUR ACTUAL SYMPTOMS, but about OUR DRUGS that PS may cause liver failure but at least the truth about herpes is getting out, which is apparently this: Herpes makes you CHEERFUL and BEAUTIFUL and THIN.

I was especially thrilled to have the opportunity to explain genital herpes to my 9 year old, since this is a commercial they apparently decided to run during a game show. NEAT! My kids came away from the commercial with the impression that genital herpes is itself a DRUG that causes you to own racing bikes and go boating. It was fun explaining that one. No, really. SO fun. Next week I am going to use A Bratz doll in its usual hooker wear to explain The Clap! Film at 11!

But what's bugging me today are the LUNESTRA ones, for insomnia, which I have, by the way. Insomnia, not Lunestra. And I didn't need a TV commercial to self diagnose. All the NOT EVER SLEEPING clued me in LONG before LUNESTRA came on the scene promising to cure me with their lovely, lovely addictive little darlings.

Have you seen them? The ones with the happy sleeping people and the Luna moth drifting in their windows? I don't like the subtext, which reads to me like "Take our drug! It will put you so deeply out that you won't even notice when our sly little spokes insect breaks in to touch you all over your helpless skin with his creepy bug feet!" The whole thing gives me the screaming wig. And it doesn't help that that bug is the size of my HEAD. I imagine his long stringy TONGUE uncurling to stroke at my drugged and helpless shoulder. "MMMM SALTY PEOPLE!" He screams in a teeny shrill voice, "LICK LICK LICK!" Just one LUNESTRA commercial, taken at bedtime, can keep me up for HOURS.

With NO segue, here is a picture of me posing writerly-ishilly with three other writers at a breakfast in New York:

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That's Lani Diane Rich by the window; she also writes for Warner. Then Linda Sherwood is on my other side, and then then CJ Barry (who is now also writing for Warner) is on the other side of Linda. I mention this because Warner is also my publisher, WHICH BY THE WAY, the French just bought, did I tell you? I think we are going to be called Hachette now. Or Hatchette Livre.

The sale feels like a GREAT excuse to go out on Friday and eat unpasteurized cheese and drink REALLY good wine while wearing shoes SO beautiful and painful that the evening will end in corrective foot surgery. WE ARE FRENCH NOW! HUZZAH! BRING IT ON! I say. The pic above is the one that we all posed for trying to look smilingly professional and earnest and which will be presented as proof that this breakfast should TOTALLY be tax deductible.

Here is one that was taken that is a more accurate representation of the WORKING BUSINESS BREAKFAST OF TOTAL TAX DEDUCTABLENESS, which is, we shrieked and giggled like a pack of harpies on crack (who were discussing serious, tax deductible publishing issues) and then went shoe shopping.

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If I can come up with a good angle, something about having to have better footwear now that we are connected to FRANCE, I will TRY to convince you the shoes should also be tax deductible. Give me a minute. I can get there from here, swear I can.

Posted by joshilyn at 11:26 AM | Comments (18)

April 4, 2006

Ready, Set , BOOM!

Let me just say -- THANK YOU SO MUCH for linking to B4B. I appreciate it more than I can say...

Last night I did an internet chat with Writing to Publish, a web group of like-minded writers who are working hard both to hone their craft AND to pursue traditional publication. It's hard to break in, sohats off, dudes, and may your queries find the right agent on the right day. This is the talk I gave, and I thought I would post it here for the writers who hang out in the Kudzu....

One of my favorite playwrights, Anton Chekhov, once said, ""If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired." Well, okay, but I think that if you've got a pistol hanging right there on the wall, you should probably rip that sucker down and start blasting away in scene one.

Actually Chekhov is being much deeper and smarter than I am pretending he is being---he's talking follow-through and that's vital. But you see my point---Don’t hold back, because in a first novel especially, you need an opening that hooks readers on page one in at LEAST two ways.

1) Establish voice. If it's first person or even a closely directed third, that means your character's voice. Voice is TONE and LANGUAGE and RHYTHM and STRUCTURE. Make her SOUND like who she is.

If it's a sliding or omniscient third, the voice you have to establish is YOURS. And if you are writing in first or directed third, you STILL have to do this, but UNDER your character's voice.

One way to know if you are writing in your own voice is to read EVERYTHING aloud. Mulitple times. Every draft. You are writing the book only you can write, so make sure you tell the story in your own voice, even if you layer a character voice on top of it.

No one can tell you how to write in your voice. You write until you find it. Trying to explain how it feels is like trying to describe an orgasm to a person who has never had one before and has no point of reference, "Sort of like sneezing, but lower. And um, better. And um, not at all like sneezing." When you are writing in your own voice, you know it. You recognize it.

I had so much trouble getting my second novel, BETWEEN, GEORGIA to be MINE that way. Nonny’s voice was so strong in my head she overpowered mine. I wouldn’t show the book to my editor until I had MY voice underneath hers, in every line. I knew I'd gotten it when my editor said, "This book is nothing like gods, the narrator is nothing like your narrator for gods, she doesn't talk, think, or act like her...and yet it's so obvious you wrote both the books. It’s YOU. How did you do that?"

The question was rhetorical, I;m sure, but I answered it. "Well," I said, "It's a little like sneezing...."

2) IMMEDIATE Conflict. Nothing boils people down to their essential selves as quickly. I think the best way to let the reader meet your characters is to put them all in a room and then light one of them on fire. When I see how all the characters react to the blazing person, I begin to know who they are and how they feel about each other. Start a big heap of trouble and then watch and see what your people DO.

If that's not possible, you have begun your book too early. Cut everything away, EVERYTHING, no matter how well it is written or how much you love it, until you begin this story where the main conflict begins. Be brutal with yourself so that agents and editors don't have to be.

Me, I am so interested in conflict that I tend to start books too LATE, which is also no good. The first thing I wrote when I started GODS IN ALABAMA ended up being Chapter 2. It was Arlene Fleet at 15, creeping up to the top of Lip Smack Hill to beat football hero Jim Beverly to death with a tequila bottle.

I realized later that I could NOT start 12 years in the past – GODS IN ALABAMA had to begin in the present with the 27 year old Arlene because her present goals were going to drive the story. So, I wrote an opening chapter, but the first lines of the book telegraph the central conflict. Here’s the opener:

"There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniels, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the Kudzu and left it to the roaches."
Arlene’s wry dark humor and smarts shows in that first line, and nothing says immediate conflict like dumping a dead body…

NOW! Go look in a mirror. If you see Pat Conroy looking back at you, feel free to begin with a description of landscape and, really, if you ARE Pat, you can natter on about it for pages and pages if you so desire. If you see a slightly less established writer, you need to cut that beautiful tree paragraph.

I'm being a little facetious, but just a little. ANY established author can take more liberties with an opening because they have a fan base. You pick up an established author's novel based on what that author has delivered in the past---good characters, interesting plots, satisfying resolutions… With a first book, you have to give a reader a TASTE for what you have to offer, and you have to do it in the first few sentences. GOOD LUCK!

Posted by joshilyn at 2:07 PM | Comments (9)

April 3, 2006

Blogging for Books is ALIVE! And also LIVE (UPDATED RULES)

Okay ---it is time for BLOGGING FOR BOOKS contest! If you blog, PLEASE I beg of thee, remind your reading/blogging audience it's B4B time, or if you list serve, or if you belong to a writers group which contains bloggers, PLEASE help get the word out. I've committed to three more months of B4B, lined up guest authors and such, so let's make it hard on them by giving them a slew of hella superlative entries. Also, from a purely selfish standpoint, I like to have a coupla blogs to read each morning with my coffee. HOOK ME UP.

Blogging 4 Books is LIVE NOW. We remember with fondness The Zero Boss, because he made it up. Where is he now? I do not know! If you knpw, tell me. I'll link to him.

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 Autumn, a former B4B finalist who pens Perfection on a Curve. She will narrow the entries down to seven.

If you are one of the seven finalists, your entry will be read by author E. Lockhart, whose new YA book, Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything is Kafka for the middle school set...In her own words, E. says the book is "about a girl called Gretchen Kaufman Yee who goes to a wacked-out art school in New York City. She's a collector of plastic Chinese food and odd figurines, a passionate comic-book artist, and a crazy Spider-man fanatic. She's also completely freaked out by the opposite sex -- in particular, the Art Rats, a group of guys in her drawing concentration. One day, she wishes she could be "a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room," just to find out what the heck guys really talk about.
And the next thing she knows... she is.
A fly.
On the wall of the locker room.

FLY ON THE WALL is a Junior Library Guild selection, which ROCK ON with your bad self, Ms. Lockhart.

flylightercolor2.jpg

E. Lockhart will choose first, second and third place, and she shall send the winnha a copy of her new book, signed of course. The winner will ALSO go up on the new B4B links section I am going to get my husband to fix ANY SECOND NOW, and if you win, you are eligible to be a special guest blogger and choose finalists.

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

I want you to use the book's title as a jumping off place. You can use the words "a fly on the wall" in your essay, you can use the words to jump to writing about homilies or cliches or Kafka or transformation, you can write about eavesdropping or being eavesdropped upon or a time when you haved like to be a fly on the wall---There are a THOUSAND ways to go with this, so don't be afraid to think outside the box.

GO!

Rules Update: To answer the questions in the comments, yes, if you have won second or third place, you are STILL eligible to enter. Only first place winners will go in the B4B winners links, although I may make it so that anyone who wins first, second OR third can be special guest blogger, depending on availability of the first place winner to do the job.

Posted by joshilyn at 2:08 PM | Comments (31)

April 2, 2006

A History of Movie-Watching

SO, I watched A History of Violence, and I stand here, boggling that the academy passed this one over. *boggleboggle* How did Cronenberg not even get the NOM is what I am asking? HOW? How did no one notice Maria Bello being note perfect or Viggo Aragornsen knocking it out of the park? MARIA BELLO IS THE SINGLE MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED ACTOR WORKING IN THE U.S. TODAY. How is this woman not noticed as she turns in Streepian-level genius performance time and time again? HOW? I think she is TOO good. I think people don't realize it's HER because she's a strange and generic kind of gorgeous and such a powerhouse actor that her pretty face can be ANY pretty face. At least it can the way she uses it. She's so subtle and so fine.

William Hurt did get a nod for best supporting actor, and he SHOULD have. I've watched Hurt endure rolls in LOST IN SPACE and DUNE, grinding his teeth and deadpanning his lines to the point where I kept calling Scott in to check and make sure he was not, in fact, clinically dead. His starched ducal collars in DUNE especially should have been embroidered with the words "Forgive me. I really need the money." It was easy to forget what a fine actor I always thought he was when he apparently gave up "having facial expressions" for Lent 8 years ago, and never realized Easter came. But in this movie he not only rediscoveres facial expressions but his voice! His wonderful voice! In every LINE, Hurt had honest-to-God INFLECTION. All of a sudden I was back in the 80's and early 90's, when the man appeared to have a rich and meaty soul behind his eyes. WELCOME BACK, MR. HURT! I HAVE MISSED YOU!!!!

You should watch the movie.

WARNING: It's graphic. It's SO graphic, in fact, so unflinchingly explicit in its sex scenes and its mercifully briefer but even MORE explicit violent moments, that only the sheltering mantle of art keeps me from putting the word "porno" in front of the word graphic. Let's put it this way: If aliens from another universe watched this movie, they would come away with both a veryveryvery clear understanding of how we make our babies and a good idea of what we might look like if they squoozed us in their giant crab-pincers until the gooey middle parts came out. Yikes.

And look, I've written an explicit sex scene or two in my day, and I've been even more explicit in the violent scenes, and I had good reasons and the imagery in the scenes was needed for thematic reasons, and I feel that was VERY MUCH the case with A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE...however. There comes a point in every woman's life where she stands musingly in the kitchen doing the dishes and wondering, "Could a person ever REALLY see too much opf Aragorn's butt?

There is a moment in Violence where this question is answered, and with a resounding YES. You also see REALLY too much burbling chunks of hot brain dribbling out, but admittedly, a LITTLE of that goes a long way.

I also want to say when I read the reviews, time and time again, the ambiguity of the ending was harped upon...Um, what ambiguity of the ending? I thought it was so clear you could have safely made a windshield out of it. But of course, in the deepest corner of my shriveled prune of a heart, there is a hot pink pulsing nodule where lives undying a mighty faith in redemption, a belief that there is no place so far from love that love can't find you and make you whole, that nothing else in this illusion-filled and transient world matters, that E. M. Forster meant so much more than ONE thing when he said, "only connect," and so I watched the movie as I watch everything----through the lens of a belief so strong it approaches absolute zero and is the defining fulcrum upon which my life bounces back and forth like a teeter-totter.

The critics say "ambiguous" because another person might interpret the ending a compeltely different way, but that person makes me sad. And PS? Is dead wrong. Tra la!

Posted by joshilyn at 9:55 AM | Comments (11)